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Nigeria spends N160billion annually on ethanol importation, industrialist

By Charles Coffie Gyamfi, Abeokuta
22 August 2017   |   4:18 am
Rajasekar who spoke to journalists at the premises of his cassava based ethanol producing factory, insisted that to reverse the negative situation, the various governments must encourage investors to engage in mass cassava production.

Ethanol Plant

* Partners AATF towards mass Cassava Production

The Director of Allied Atlantic Distilleries Limited (AADL), Igbesa, Ogun State, the largest cassava based ethanol producing company in Africa, Mr. Rajavelu Rajasekar yesterday disclosed that Nigeria spends N160billion annually to import ethanol for industrial use.

He explained that the country imports close to 400million litres of ethanol annually to meet its industrial consumption, adding that a litre of ethanol is sold for N400.

Rajasekar who spoke to journalists at the premises of his cassava based ethanol producing factory, insisted that to reverse the negative situation, the various governments must encourage investors to engage in mass cassava production.

He argued that the days of cassava being perceived as a poor man’s crop in Nigeria was long gone, saying cassava is now an industrial crop which is capable of reviving the economy of the country.

In his view, Nigeria as the world largest producer of cassava was still not producing enough cassava to meet its local consumption. While stressing that his factory was not getting enough cassava to meet its requirement, Rajasekar, stressed, “The demand for cassava is now higher than ever and Nigeria needs to plant more cassava to meet its demand.”

Rajasekar said, his company as the first cassava based ethanol producing factory in Nigeria only produced nine million litres of ethanol per year which is three to four percent the country’s requirement, saying the remaining 96 to 97 percent deficit is still been imported from Brazil and India among other countries.

Rajasekar disclosed, “The truth is that we are still not getting enough supply from the market. Since we started producing in 2013, there no year that we have gotten full supply of cassava”.

To solve the problem, Rajasekar disclosed that his company had partnered with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to boost mass cassava production through mechanisation.

Over the years AATF has worked with various partners and stakeholders across the cassava value chain which has led to some level of successes achieved so far, according to the Head of Communications and Partnerships Unit of AATF, Mr. Umaru Abu.

Abu disclosed that, AATF through the Cassava Mechanisation and Agro-processing Project (CAMAP) with support from the United Kingdom Agency for International Development (UKAID) is working with small-scale and commercial farmers and governments of Ogun, Oyo, Kogi, Kwara and Osun States to boost cassava production by assisting them in cassava mechanisation.

Rajasekar said, “We produce 30,000 litres of ethanol per day and we produce everyday throughout the year. We consume anything between 225 to 250 tons of cassava everyday. We are probably the biggest consumer of cassava in the country as an industry and the mill runs everyday of the year unless we are suffocated by non-supply of cassava supply.”

“We consume up to 75,000 tons of cassava per year and we produce nine million litres of ethanol per year. Nigeria imports close to 400million litres of ethanol in a year and Nigeria is a dependent import country of ethanol.”

His words, “Out of the 400million litres that the country consumes in a year, AADL produces only nine million litres which is only three to four percent requirement of what the country needs so the remaining 96 to 97percent is still being imported by Nigeria from various countries such as Brazil, India and other countries.”

In an interview, Umaru Abu told journalists that AATF is targeting 3.5 to 5 million cassava farmers in Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and other countries in five years to “revolutionalised cassava production through increased adoption of mechanisation and associated practices that will guarantee higher yield and linkage to markets”.

Abu added that AATF partnered with AADL to serve as off-taker of cassava produced by famers in Nigeria, saying “We must ensure that there is market for their produce because we realised that some farmers in the past usually complain that they had so much cassava on their farms but they didn’t have buyers for it.”

His words, “Cassava is produced in the country largely by small-scale farmers using rudimentary implements. The average land-holding is less than two hectares and for most farmers, land and family labour remain the essential inputs but with our CAMAP programme we have introduced farmers to mechanised farming in order to boost their production.”

“In most cases, we have provided farmers with services such as improved cassava stems, fertilizer, herbicides, our two-roll cassava planter which plants one hectre of land within 45 minutes and at the same time applies fertilizer and harvester, in addition to linking them to off-takers.”

“Beyond the increase of farmers’ yield, we are also looking at the enterprenuership aspect where we build individuals, especially youths and women who are our primary target.”

“We are providing them with enabling environment to have access to these machines and provide services for farmers within a given cluster because we know mechanisation is an expensive feature in this part of the world.”

“We have trained 30 service providers in the operation of tractors and other machines to enable the sustainability of the project so that in the next couple of years we will just step aside and allow the project to run on its own,” Abu affirmed.