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Calls for industrialisation of ‘game-changing crops’ intensify

By Femi Ibirogba
10 September 2018   |   4:15 am
Cocoa, cashew, palm produce and groundnut were major foreign exchange earners for Nigeria before and after independence. At the peak of cocoa production...

Chocolate bar production unit at Multi Trex Plc PHOTO: Femi Ibirogba

Head, Agro-Economy Desk, FEMI IBIROGBA reports calls for full industrialisation and value addition development of certain crops as game-changers in the efforts to develop the economy.

Cocoa, cashew, palm produce and groundnut were major foreign exchange earners for Nigeria before and after independence. At the peak of cocoa production, the country produced over 400,000 metric tonnes yearly before the decline. Palm oil and groundnut were also produced in large quantity, which employed over 70% of the population altogether.

Cashew nuts are mainly exported, with only Olam Edible Nuts, based in Ilorin, Kwara State, as about the only major existing cashew processing facility in the country. Raw cashew nuts exportation, experts have said, is affecting employment and economic prosperity.
Yam and cassava, with Nigeria as the largest producer, have assumed huge economic and commercial statuses.

For the sake of productivity and industrialisation for economic growth and development, experts, entrepreneurs and farmers have called on the government to pay attention to the following crops and their value addition.

Cassava and its value chain
From Asia to Africa, cassava has become a multipurpose crop used not only as animal feeds and human food but also as industrial raw materials.
Growing and processing cassava have created and can still create many jobs in Nigeria, increased exports, attracted foreign investments, and contributed to industrialisation and modernisation of several rural areas. Being an excellent source of starch and flour, cassava has a huge development potential, with companies like Thai Farms and Allied Atlantic Distillery already exploring the industrial utilisation of the crop.

Cassava has a competitive advantage for ethanol because of its lower cost of production and a simpler ethanol processing technology. For that reason, it is expected that the Chinese cassava production area will expand to about 600,000 to 800,000 hectares during the current decade and outsourcing for industrial usage would extend demand to Africa, and by extension Nigeria, the largest producer of the root crop in the world.

Cassava is particularly suitable and relatively cheap for baking flour. It is quite suitable for production of modified starch. Modified starch is a main product among starch derivatives because it has become a new raw material in multiple industries.

Coordinator of African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Ilorin, Kwara State, Mr David Ayodele, told The Guardian that industrial demand for cassava as raw materials is so high that most of the processors are producing below capacity.

However, Dr Okechukwu Richardson, a cassava breeder at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), has suggested mechanisation of cassava production and effective weed control to increase average yield per hectare from 10 to at least 35 tonnes and reduce average cost per tonne. This way, he said, more jobs would be created and poverty would be drastically reduced.

Pitching his tent with Richardson, Ayodele said full mechanisation of cassava production, from planting to harvesting, would increase productivity and more economic activities, and would lead to derived demand for labour, hence employment creation.

For instance, he explained that the factories currently producing below capacity could employ more youths if they have more roots of the crop for processing, and that they would need more marketing staff and distributors, creating a beneficial effect on the economy.

If a mechanical planter is used for stem planting, he argued, the plant population would be maximized to about 12,500 stands. This, he added, would increase the tonnage per hectare.

Therefore, the government should emphasise machanisation of cassava production in the country, embrace and disseminate new weed control technologies emanating from universities, IITA and other research institutes to farmers through extension services.

Managing Director of FDH AgroVet, Mr Femi Akinwale, has described cassava as being under-utilised for animal feeds in the country. Cassava chips could be used in replacing some percentage of maize in feed formulation. This would further deepen industrial utilisation of the crop, intensify production and contribute to the economy, he added.

Maize is a very competitive crop. Intensive animal husbandry and subsequent nutritional requirements of the animals trigger a great demand for maize in feeds formulation, apart from other industrial uses, creating intense competition between humans and animals for the crop as a potent source of energy.

According to Evidence and Programme Guidance Unit, Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, World Health Organisation (WHO), Geneva, said maize contains approximately 72% starch; 10% protein; and 4% fat, supplying an energy density of 365 Kcal/100g and is grown throughout the world, with the United States, China and Brazil the world production with approximately 563 of the 717 million metric tonnes/year.

Maize can be processed into a variety of food and industrial products, including starch, sweeteners, oil, beverages, glue, corn-based foods, industrial alcohol, and fuel ethanol.

Improved varieties are being approved, registered and released by the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) through the National Crop and Animal Varieties Release Committee, hosted by NACGRAB in Ibadan. Best of the recently released varieties should be multiplied and supplied to farmers at subsidised prices to increase yield per hectare from the average of 2.5 tonnes to 8 or 10 tonnes per hectare.

Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA) of IITA has declared that yam ranks as the most important source of dietary calories in Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Ghana, and Nigeria. It also said the crop makes a substantial contribution to protein in the diet, ranking as the third most important source of supply. Hence, yam is important for food security (as mainstay for at least 60 million people) and income generation; 31.8% of the population in Nigeria and 26.2% in Ghana depend on yam for food and income security.

Cashew procossing machine PHOTO: google

Despite its importance in the economy and lives of many people, yam faces several constraints that significantly reduce its potential to support rural development and meet consumers’ needs as an affordable nutritional product.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had said one of the most challenging hurdles in yam production was heap making, for conventional farm implements could not be used for yam heaps. However, the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM) has designed and fabricated a machine for yam heap preparation. This calls for rapid multiplication of the prototype and training of fabricators to mass-produce.

Other challenges include unavailability and unaffordability of high quality seed yams, on-farm post-harvest losses, low soil fertility, unexploited potential of yam (ware and seed) markets by smallholder farmers, unavailability of adapted varieties to stress environments of the savannah agro-ecologies, diseases and pests, and limited opportunities for smallholder farmers, mainly rural women, in yam production and marketing.

Globally, Africa’s contribution to supplies of grains is modest: maize, about 5%; rice, 3%; and wheat, 3% in the late 2000s (FAOSTAT 2013). But Africa is the lead player in the supplies of cassava with 50% of world production and yam with 95%, pointing to the government where Nigeria has competitive advantages.

Dr Robert Asiedu, IITA’s Director for West Africa, said: “The unavailability and high cost of high quality seed yam is the primary constraint in West Africa with the food security of millions of people heavily dependent on the availability and affordability of seed tubers.”

Traditionally, farmers use tubers as seeds, which is inefficient and costly. High production cost is attributed to the use of seed yam tubers, which account for about 30% of the total yield and as much as 63% of the total variable cost incurred per season of cultivation. Moreover, most of the tubers are of low quality, containing pests (nematodes) and pathogens (virus) which decrease the yield of yam tubers, Asiedu added.

Economics of yam
In Nigeria, yam is food and cash crop. It also plays an important role in food security and in the livelihoods of 60 million people in the West African region. The crop is cultivated mostly in the derived, humid, and southern Guinea savanna agro-ecologies. About 48 million tonnes of yam (95% of global supply) are produced on 4 million hectares annually in the region, mainly in five countries: Benin Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo, and Nigeria alone accounts for 70% of global yam supply.

Therefore, high ratio propagation technologies such as vine cuttings, aeroponics and bioreactor technologies developed to make yam seeds available at competitive prices and to address the constraints of quality, rapidity, and multiplication in seed yam production should be explored by the current administration in Nigeria.

Yam farmers should also be incorporated into the Anchor Borrower’s programme and the minister should make deliberate efforts to promote full industrialisation of yam into finished and semi-finished products that could contribute meaningfully to the economy, rather than exportation of raw yam.

Nigeria has the population that could consume much of the produce, and the remnant should be put to industrial uses if the government truly sees agriculture as a means of diversifying the economy.

As of 2001, when former Minister of Agriculture, Dr Adewumi Adesina, took charge of the ministry, he set a goal through the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), called Cocoa Transformation Agenda aimed at doubling cocoa production in Nigeria from 250,000 to 500,000 metric tonnes by 2015.

Nigeria’s cocoa production peaked at over 450,000 metric tonnes around independence, but had since then nosedived into about 200,000 tonnes yearly. The ATA efforts were not only to close the gap between Nigeria and its peers, Ghana, which produces about 850,000 tonnes and Cote d’Ivoire, which produces about 1.3 million metric tonnes yearly, but also to intensify local utilization of the crop for what the administration called “agriculturally industrialised economy.”

However, Managing Director of Multitrex Integrated Foods Plc, Mr Dimeji Owofemi, said cocoa production has not increased beyond 250,000 tonnes per annum.

He explained that cocoa value chain sector had been in crises over cost of production; sourcing of raw materials because of competition between raw beans exporters and processors; and epileptic power supply, all emanating from wrong, or non-implementation of good policies.

President of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, Mr Sayina Riman, also admitted that though accurate data is nearly impossible because of absence of a commodity board, an estimate of about 240,000 to 250,000 metric tonnes of cocoa beans are produced in Nigeria.

The most unfortunate thing, he added, about the cocoa industry in Nigeria is the shrinking of processing companies from about 27 to about five as of now, saying the existing ones could only produce about 15 per cent of the installed capacities.

He urged the Federal Government to intervene in the case involving the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and Multi Trex Integrated Foods Plc so that the company could recommence operations and re-absorb workers into the cocoa processing factory, urging the government to cancel accruing interest on the loan of the company while in the custody of AMCON.

The National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN) disclosed earlier in the year that total revenue made from cashew nuts was over N144 billion in 2017, with production moving up from 90,000 metric tonnes in 2011 to about 220,000 metric tonnes.

President of the association, Tola Faseru, who disclosed this to journalists, said it was a breakthrough.

“That was more than double of what the production was from 2011 to 2017,” he had said.
However, the revenue made from the cashew export was mainly on raw cashew nuts to India, China and European countries. This, a farmer in Oyo State, Mr Theophilus Farounbi, said could mean more incomes if processing facilities are established in the country, saying it would imply more jobs and avoidance of economic leakages.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, recently disclosed to journalists in Lagos that raw cashew export would stop by August 2019, revealing little about what the government would do to achieve this.

Dr Akin Olonihuwa, former Provost of Kabba College of Agriculture, Kogi State, also believed that value addition would help to intensify investment in nut production, and would have positive impacts on employment, wealth creation and improved living standard.

One Mrs Adeola Owolabi, a commercial cashew farmer in Ilorin, Kwara State, however, said the government should go beyond ordinary cacophony of declarations without actions, saying cashew and cocoa value chain development should be taken seriously.

Palm oil
Vegetable producers are still importing crude palm oil into the country. Some years ago, the Federal Government declared that it remained resolute on the high tariff of 35 per cent import duty imposed on Crude Palm Oil (CPO) in order to grow the agricultural sector and diversify the economy.

This was assured when the Coalition of Oil Palm Value Chain Associations, including the National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria (NPPAN), the Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN), the Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria (POFON), and the Vegetable & Edible Oil Producers Association of Nigeria (VEOPAN), urged the government to prevent massive importation of crude palm oil into the country.

However, the Guardian has learnt that the produce is still being imported till date, discouraging backward integration of processing companies and stressing the struggling economy.