Cassava value chain has broken down in Shendam – His Royal Highness Miskoom Martin Mudutrie Shaldas III
We Need Rice Processing Plants Here
In 2018, Shendam Local Government Area and its environs in Plateau State witnessed a bumper harvest in most of its major farm crops, which include rice, yam and cassava. While there is adequate market for rice and yam, those who produced tonnes of cassava have no markets for their products.
His Royal Highness Miskoom Martin Mudutrie Shaldas III, 31st King of Shendam land In Plateau State underscored the people’s plight this way: “Machineries farmers procured to process cassava products are lying waste, as they can hardly meet their obligations to the Bank of Industry (BoI), which helped them set up these facilities.
“These processing facilities for cassava flour and starch are dormant, due to lack of market for the finished products. For example, I have a cassava processing machine, but almost all of us that farm cassava this year don’t know what to do with the products, just because, the market is not there.
“We cannot add value, and the products are just wasting away. One of the major problems we have here is lack of electricity to operate the machines. Ordinarily, we were expected to produce and process the cassava for industrial use. We were carried away by government’s promises and policy on Cassava Value Chain. We were given the assurances that our products would be adequately used by master bakers and flour millers, who, government said should at least add or incorporate 10 percent of cassava flour into their products. As such, there will always be a ready market for cassava products produced locally into various bakery products in Nigeria.
“However, experience has shown that government’s position is not correct in this regard. The flour millers and Master Bakers are not buying our processed products at all. The value chain earlier promised by government has long broken down. The value chain got disrupted because the Federal Government refused to make a law compelling Master Bakers and millers to use our products. So, people farming cassava are on their own. They are stranded, and most of them don’t know what to do. The machineries they took loans to buy with the assistance of BoI are lying fallow, not used to capacity. So, they cannot service the loans with which they bought the equipment.
“From all indications, the Value Chain has broken down completely; it is not working at all. We would want the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to tell us why the Cassava Value Chain has broken down beyond redemption. What happened to the Cassava Value Chain fund? How do we pay the loan taken from BoI? We have these machines installed ready to work, but nobody is taking the products we process from us. Farmers are just cultivating cassava and there is no market for them. The yam is good business for us, which is why we are channelling our energy to the massive production of yam and rice, as rice also gives us value. I limit myself to what I do well.”
The traditional ruler, obviously upset by the turn of event, said his people might consider dropping cassava farming and concentrate on rice, livestock and yam products that have ready market.
He said: “Since I ascended the throne, I have deliberately ensured herders and the natives, especially the farmers conflict is avoided, which had hitherto disrupted our farming calendar in this part of the country. With this, there is no reason our people should not be in their farms. Just two hours ago, I held a security meeting with all the tribes domiciled in these areas of Plateau State alongside their representatives.
“Government has helped us with fertilizers. Just recently, the Plateau State Government procured tractors and distributed them to farmers in all the Local Government Areas in the state. All this cumulatively, has helped to enhance farming actives in this part of the country.
“One good thing is that we do not look for customers to buy most of the agricultural produce from these areas. Rather, it is customers that come from across the country looking for farm produce here. We, therefore, have a very huge market in this part of the Plateau. Most rice companies domiciled in the East, Middle Belt, South-South, Southwest and the far North come here almost on daily basis, to buy raw rice. Unfortunately, the rice is not processed here. And after processing, they labeled the rice as being produced in their areas.
“Some of these rice processing plants are located in Lafia, in Nasarawa State, East and Kano State, just to mention a few. We are just a market where they buy raw products. Similarly, many trucks loaded with yam from this part of the country are daily taken to places like Kano, Onitsha, Enugu, Port Harcourt and Lagos State. Almost daily, five to 10 trucks loaded with yam leave Shendam for various parts of the East.
“We need rice processing plants in Shendam. It is sad that we do all the hard labour, farming the rice, only for companies to come and buy, and process it in a different locality entirely and then give the products different names.
“Agreed that the companies coming to buy our raw rice pay for it, but the visibility they get from the end product can also be achieved by us. Presently, we have the capacity to produce enough rice for the plants we intend to set up here, and for the companies coming here to buy. We also want to create employment through such rice processing plants. This is my line of argument.”