Nigeria’s closure of its land borders will increase industrial use of cassava and other local agricultural produce, the National Cassava Processors and Marketers Association (NCAPMA) has said.

The Administrative Secretary of the association, Dr Bola Asiru, said on Tuesday that the border closure and its attendant increase in the cost of imported raw materials had positioned cassava as a priority crop for industrial use.

Asiru spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

He noted that though Nigeria was the highest producer of cassava, governments did not give it priority attention in the past.

Asiru said that the current administration’s policies including the Executive Order 5 and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s directive to commercial banks to give agriculture sector loans at low interest rates, all indicated hope for increased cassava use.

“With the closure of the borders and increasing cost of imported raw materials, it is now very necessary for industries in country to look inwards for alternatives to survive.

“Cassava has become a very important crop to Nigeria’s economy.

“This is evident by the recent rush by the Flour Millers Association and big operators such as Unilever and Nestle, which have been seeking for use of cassava starch and cassava flour to replace imported corn starch.

“They are seeking local alternatives, and cassava is one of the prominent crops that can fit into such alternatives.

“Cassava’s increasing relevance was confirmed by representatives of the CBN at the last Cassava Investment Forum organised by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Abuja,’’ he said.

Asiru, also a Director in the Federal Institute for Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), said that the CBN representatives declared support for cassava use and started to dialogue with various associations in the value chain.

The NCAPMA official said that the CBN representatives also met with FIIRO, IITA and the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, to chart a way forward for increased production and use of cassava in Nigeria.

He lauded donor-agencies such as the German Development Corporation (GIZ) for contributions to the cassava value chain.

Asiru said that GIZ had trained about 30,000 cassava farmers in South West Nigeria on better agricultural practices and businesses.

He said that GIZ had also trained rural women processors in order to improve the quality of `garri’ (cassava flakes).

“Notable among the achievement of this German donor-agency, GIZ, is its collaboration with FIIRO and Bosch in the development of Mobile Cassava Processing Innovation (MOCAPI).

“MOCAPI is a unit comprising of grater, hammer mill, press and a packaging machine operated by a 1.5kph generator, all assembled inside a tricycle.

“We have been using this mobile unit to move from one rural area to another to process quality garri, and in our field test, the adoption of the innovation by rural women has been very high,’’ the NCAPMA official told NAN.

He added that the MOCAPI would improve the quality of garri and promote food safety.

Asiru said that the next step for the MOCAPI, which was produced by the collaborative efforts of GIZ, FIIRO and Bosch, was upscaling to commercialisation.

According to him, a business model has been produced and the partners are looking for investors who will take over the technology as service providers to the rural areas.

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