The Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) says exploiting the potential in cassava can accelerate Africa’s economic transformation.

A statement by the management of NIRSAL in Abuja on Sunday, said Mr Aliyu Abdulhameed, the Managing Director of the organisation, stated this at the 4th International Cassava Conference held in Cotonou, Republic of Benin.

Adulhameed said that although cassava was a main source of nutrition for over one billion people across the globe.

He added that the value chain had not reached its full potential as a tool for the transformation of African economies through industrialisation.

The managing director said that poor access to finance was a major factor inhibiting cassava exploitation in Africa.

He noted that cassava value chain required financial services that would support larger agricultural investments to improve access to quality inputs and mechanisation services for smallholder farmers.

According to him, cassava production remains low in Africa because the majority of primary producers are smallholder farmers who lack access to financial services, quality inputs, mechanisation, and knowledge of best agronomic practices.

Adulhameed maintained that in spite of the comparative advantage of Africa in cassava production, most countries still relied largely on imports to meet industrial requirements for starch, high-quality cassava flour, ethanol and glucose production.

He quoted the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as saying that Africa produces over 54 per cent of the world’s cassava, with Nigeria taking the global lead.

The managing director said that Nigeria produced about 54.8 million tonnes of cassava in 2014 with an average yield of 7.7 tonnes per hectare.

This, he said, was low compared to the 23.4 tonnes and 22.2 tonnes yield per hectare produced in Indonesia and Thailand respectively.

“Cassava is a major source of carbohydrate for over half a billion people and provides a livelihood for millions of farmers, processors and traders worldwide.

“Low production hampers the development of industrial processing of cassava due to the competition between sustenance production, industry and the peculiarities in its cultivation.

“Most critical of this is the crop’s short shelf-life, once harvested, cassava requires structured logistics and even modular post-harvest processing technology to support the shift towards industrial markets,’’

Adulhameed, however, stressed the need to facilitate the flow of affordable finance and investment to agriculture and agri-business in African countries in order to mitigate low-quality inputs, poor production practices and outdated technologies.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that NIRSAL is designed to engender the flow of affordable financing to all players in agricultural value chains.

It reduces the risks of financing institutions while granting agricultural loans by building the capacities of both banks and value chain actors on good practices in agricultural financing, loans utilisation and repayment.

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