Cassava, a vital staple crop in Nigeria, holds enormous potential as a global commodity. Despite Nigeria being the largest cassava producer worldwide, accounting for 26% of global production, the country has yet to fully capitalize on the global market for cassava and its derivatives.
Nigeria, primarily reliant on crude oil revenue, has faced significant challenges due to the volatility of the global oil sector. As a result, the country has recognized the need to diversify its economy, particularly by enhancing cassava production. Cassava was introduced to Africa by Portuguese colonists in the 16th century, and its cultivation gained traction due to its resilience and high-calorie content, offering an affordable alternative to expensive starches like wheat or rice. In the 1970s, Nigeria initiated policies to promote cassava production and established the Cassava Multiplication Project to encourage industrial applications of cassava, such as ethanol production, sweeteners, and starches.
Cassava Production in Nigeria
With global cassava production reaching 308 million tonnes in 2021, Africa accounted for approximately 56% of the world’s production, followed by Asia and America. Nigeria alone produced around 60 million tonnes, making it the largest producer and harvester of cassava globally. Surprisingly, more than 90% of Nigeria’s cassava production is utilized for local food consumption, with industrial production limited to around 10% and less than 1% dedicated to exports.
Nigeria’s Cassava Exportation
Despite its leading position in cassava production, Nigeria’s cassava exports lag behind countries like Egypt, Thailand, and Vietnam. In 2021, Nigeria’s export value was a mere $1.02 million, accounting for only 0.057% of the global cassava export market valued at $3.65 billion. Thailand, which produces less than half the amount of cassava compared to Nigeria, had an export value of nearly $1.3 billion. Even Egypt, the only African country in the top ten cassava exporters, had an export value of $81.8 million, claiming less than 1% of the total African and global cassava export market.
Demand and Supply of Cassava in Nigeria
While the demand for cassava and its by-products is increasing due to the rising popularity of sugar-free products, Nigeria’s supply has been unable to meet the substantial demand. For example, the supply-demand gap for High-Quality Cassava Flour stands at 500,000 metric tonnes per year, while the supply falls short at less than 15,000 metric tonnes. Nigeria currently imports 95% of its starch and ethanol, creating a significant gap between demand and domestic production. The country’s potential for cassava ethanol production alone could generate substantial revenue, while improved value addition and local manufacturing could lead to job creation and increased tax revenue.
Challenges of Cassava Production in Nigeria
The low productivity of cassava farmers, with 95% being smallholders cultivating less than 2 hectares, poses a challenge to commercializing the crop and competing with global cassava exporters. Nigeria’s average cassava yield per hectare has declined in recent years, unlike Thailand, the leading exporter, which has experienced consistent yield growth. Factors contributing to low productivity in Nigeria include poor soil quality, inadequate use of fertilizers, and outdated farming equipment. Additionally, limited value addition through processing and inefficient logistics, marketing mechanisms, and poor quality control hinder Nigeria’s cassava industry.
To fully harness the potential of Nigeria’s cassava industry in the global market, several steps should be taken:
- Strengthening Capacity: Investment in training programs for cassava producers and the establishment of modern processing facilities and mechanization can enhance the quality and prompt delivery of cassava products.
- Value Addition: Increased investment in processing cassava derivatives, particularly ethanol, sweeteners, and monosodium glutamate, can lead to higher returns in the global market.
- International Trade Relationships: Strengthening trade relationships with countries like the United Kingdom, Austria, Spain, China, and others can open up greater export possibilities.
- Quality Control and Standards: Implementing consistent quality control measures and standards will boost the competitiveness of Nigerian cassava products in the global market.
- Favorable Trade Policies: Reliable and consistent trade policies that support the growth of cassava production, consumption, and utilization should be implemented and effectively monitored.
With its significant cassava production capacity, Nigeria has the potential to become a major player in the global market. By addressing the challenges faced by the cassava industry, investing in value addition, strengthening trade relationships, and implementing supportive policies, Nigeria can unlock the economic benefits of cassava, generate substantial revenue, create jobs, and contribute to its agricultural and economic development.