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Cassava now goldmine as tonnage price rises

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Cassava roots

“If urgent solution is not provided, cassava will be expensive towards the end of 2020 and early 2021. There may not be enough cassava for garri, cassava flour and other food items. Even if cassava is available, it will be very expensive.

“Many farmers boycotted cassava cultivation in 2020, and this development could lead to scarcity of the produce. The reason for the boycott was due to the huge losses recorded in 2019 by many farmers as a result of glut.”

This alarm was raised mid last year by the Secretary of the Lagos State Chapter of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Abimbola Fagoyinbo-Francis, following a revelation that many farmers boycotted cassava cultivation in 2020.

Just as predicted, cassava has now become a goldmine, as its price increases on daily basis, despite the country’s position in the comity of cassava producing countries.

Nigeria is the largest cassava producer globally, accounting for about one-fifth (21 per cent) of total production worldwide. The demand for cassava and its constituents is high in the domestic economy. However, the supply has been unable to meet the huge demand.

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According to PwC, it is estimated that Nigeria would need about 28.3 million metric tonnes of fresh cassava root planted yearly on about 1.2 million hectares of land to meet the country’s demand for some of the cassava by-products and derivatives like ethanol, cassava-based constituents in sugar syrup, high-quality cassava flour, cassava-based adhesives such as cassava starch, caustic soda, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid and sodium silicate.

It was learnt that from the total output of 59.5 million metric tonnes of cassava produced in the country based on 2018 estimates, Nigeria has the economic potential to generate revenues of $427.3m from domestic value-addition and derive income of $2.98b in agricultural exports of cassava. Furthermore, the local value-addition to cassava via local manufacturing and processing could potentially unlock about $16m in taxes to the government.

Currently, a ton of cassava previously sold for N15, 000 is now between N57, 000 and N80, 000, depending on the cassava type and the market.

Due to this development, the bye-products of cassava, especially garri — the most widely traded cassava product, cassava flour, fufu and starch, among others have become scarce and expensive.

For instance, in major markets in Lagos, a paint plastic module of garri, initially sold for N350 is currently selling for between N1, 350 and N1, 500. A survey of Mile 12 market, Agege and Ile-Epo showed that the wholesale price of the same module, initially sold for N400 and N450 is now N1, 300.

In Ogun State, the same module sold at the rate of N300 to N350 at Ifo market, Arigbajo, Wasimi, Lafenwa, Sango, Panseke and other popular markets in the state is now selling as high as N1, 200 to N1, 300.

It was learnt that a paint plastic module of cassava flour previously sold for N300 is now N1, 200, while fufu has become very scarce.

The Baale of farmers in Imeko land, Ogun State, Chief Abdulazeez Ismail Adedayo told The Guardian that a ton of cassava, previously sold for N10, 000 in the state, is now N65, 000. “A sack of cassava is now between N21, 000 to N22, 000 from between N3, 500 to N5, 000 and basket of cassava previously sold for N1, 000 now between N5, 000 and N6, 000.

“The issue of COVID-19 lockdown contributed immensely to this, as it hampers movement of farmers during the period. Despite being members of essential workers, only a fraction of the farmers were bold enough to go out, this actually negatively impacted planting of crops. Aside that, even the climate change issue, especially paucity of rainfall, which destroyed crops affected farmers.

“We have started experiencing a similar situation this year again. Currently, the cassava and maize planted during this planting season have been destroyed. The only solution to this is to embrace irrigation farming. Even the activities of the herders contributed to this problem. Cassava price will continue to rise as demand rises. Those selling garri, fufu and cassava flour can hardly get cassava from the farms,” he said.

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The CEO of Fourteen Farms, Ifeware/Ife, Osun State, Julian Akinremi, attributed the issue to insecurity, exchange rate, climate change and rising demand. “Farms have been vandalised recently and a number of farmers are scared of going to their farms, which reduced cultivated areas last year.

“A number of farms have been abandoned, others are cultivated in parts due to loss of investment and/or lack of manpower to do the job as some farm hands are afraid to work on some areas that are far away from the town and prone to clashes.

“The regular influx of investors to finance agriculture yearly has dropped. A lot of people have lost money consistently in the last three to four years. So they have decided to put their money elsewhere.”

While noting that the exchange rate affects all business activities, as imported inputs and chemicals become more expensive, Akinremi said the cost of transportation, farm labour and living goes up and farmers have to ensure the price of their produce can meet their domestic demands.

“Also the rains came late and stopped early. And most of the farms are rain fed. Hence, the yield was affected. If we have more irrigated farms we would have more produce and a stable price. A number of experts had predicted food scarcity this year and we can see that from the current market analysis.”

“Demand is currently higher, and this can be as a result of reduction in cultivation due to insecurity, more demand due to population increase and need to use more raw materials along the cassava value chain.”

He advised government to support farmers to access plough, ridgers, stumping machines and harrows at affordable rates. “This will enable smallholder farmers cultivate more areas. Access to improved seeds; stems, seedlings and chemicals will also increase the quantity of cassava and other agric materials available for sale.”

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