Cassava is a major staple crop in Nigeria, as cassava and its product are found in the daily meals of Nigerians. Currently, cassava is transitioning from a mere subsistent crop found in the field of peasants to a commercial crop grown in plantations.
Global cassava market
Nigeria currently produces about 54 million metric tonnes (MT) per annum (FAO, 2013), making her the highest cassava producer in the world, producing a third more than Brazil and almost double the production capacity of Thailand and Vietnam.
However, Nigeria is not actively participating in cassava trade in the international markets because most of her cassava is targeted at the domestic food market.
The production methods are primarily subsistence in nature and, therefore, unable to support industrial-level demands (FAO, 2013).
More than 248 million tons of cassava were produced worldwide in 2012, of which Africa accounted for 58% (IITA, 2012).
In Ghana, Cassava accounts for a daily caloric intake of 30% and is grown by nearly every farming family.
The importance of cassava to many Africans is epitomized in the ewe (a language spoken in Ghana, Togo, and Benin) name for the plant agbeli, meaning “there is life” (IITA, 2010).
For instance, cassava leaves are essential in some contestants; in the Democratic Republic of Congo, cassava leaves have more excellent market value than roots.
In the subtropical region of southern China, cassava is the fifth-largest crop in production, after rice, sweet potato, sugar cane, and maize.
China is the largest export market for cassava produced in Vietnam and Thailand. Over 60% of cassava production in China is concentrated in a single province, Guangxi, averaging over 7 million tons annually (Frederick, 2008).
The world trade in pellets has long been dominated by Thailand, beginning around 1967, a few years after the start of its cassava exports to the European Union (EU).
Although Thailand exports cassava chips and pellets to other Asian countries, especially China, where pellets are used both for animal feed and ethanol production, the production and trade in cassava starch have significantly increased in recent years.
Cassava starch has product characteristics that are technically superior to corn (maize) starch, and this sub-sector promises to be a viable new market segment for industrial cassava.
Large companies specializing in starch production and modified starch have invested hugely in Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, and Indonesia to meet the global starch demand.
Cassava flour is widely consumed in Brazil and most of Latin America, as Farinha (Farinha is essential just in Brazil), with various levels of sophistication in its processing from primitive family to extensive mechanized methods in factories.
Cassava production in Nigeria
Over time, cassava has evolved from a peasant’s crop to a cash and industrial crop.
Cassava in Nigeria is used for two primary purposes: 90% as human food and only 5 to 10% as a secondary industrial material (used chiefly as animal feed).
About 10% of Nigeria’s industrial demand consists of high-quality cassava flour (HQCF) used in biscuits and confectioneries, dextrin pregelatinized starch for adhesives, and starch hydrolysates for pharmaceutical products and seasonings.
Seventy percent (70%) of cassava processed as human food is gari (Cassava Master Plan, 2006). Other everyday cassava products for human nutrition are lafun and fufu/Akpu.
Processed products can be classified into primary and secondary outcomes. The former, e.g., gari, fufu, starch, chips, and pellets, are primary products from raw cassava roots. In contrast, the latter is obtained from further processing of direct products (e.g., glucose syrup, dextrin, and adhesive are obtained from starch).
Cassava production in Nigeria is increasing every year, but Nigeria continues to import starch, flour, and sweeteners that can be made from cassava (Cassava Master Plan, 2006).
This paradox is due to how cassava is produced, marketed, and consumed in Nigeria, in an ample subsistence to semi-commercial manner.
To fully exploit cassava’s immense potential, especially as a replacement of imported raw materials and as an export commodity, there is a need to change how cassava is grown and traded in the country using a value-chain development approach.
Nigerian cassava-based industrial products are just a fraction of imports, and the growth potential is enormous (Cassava Master Plan, 2006).
Cassava transformation that builds upon two previous efforts has been embarked upon under the Agricultural Transformation Program of President Goodluck Jonathan and implemented by the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinkumi Adesina.
The cassava transformation seeks to create a new generation of cassava farmers, oriented towards commercial production and farming as a business, and to link them up to reliable demand, either from processors or a guaranteed minimum price scheme of the government.
The overarching strategy of the cassava transformation is to turn the cassava sector in Nigeria into a major player in local and international starch, sweeteners, ethanol, HQCF, and dried Chips industries by adopting improved production and processing technologies, and organizing producers and processors into efficient value-added chains.
There are three major limitations of increasing utilization of cassava roots: poor shelf life, low protein content, and their naturally occurring cyanogens (IITA, 2012).