By; BAYO AKAMO, Ibadan.
International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA),
Project Leader, Cassava Weed Management Project, Dr Alfred Dixon has hinted that Nigerian government can generate $5billion per annum from cassava market.
Dr. Dixon dropped this hint in his keynote address at the 2016 National Cassava Summit with the theme: “Towards a U.S.$5 billion Per Annum Cassava Industry in the Next Five Years”.
According to the Project Leader, Nigeria can successfully tap the $5billion per annum cassava market demand if it is ready to invest in “weed science research, agronomy, and cassava seeds system with a view to raising the productivity frontier of the root crop”.
Dr Dixon pointed out that though, Nigeria being the largest producer of cassava in the world with about 53 million tons in 2013, “is yet to maximize the benefit of cassava exports due low yield of about 14 tons per hectare as opposed to Asian countries where yields are more than 25 tons per hectare and upwards,” saying, “this yield gap puts Nigerian farmers at a disadvantage position, and they can’t compete in the global cassava market”.
“Nigeria’s cassava production accounts for about 20% of the total global output of cassava but less than 1% of export. Cassava is an appropriate commodity to feature in Nigeria’s economic development and confront the problems of a rapidly growing population and rising urbanization that is demanding more food, feed for livestock and raw materials for industries.
Besides the constraints of weed control, agronomy, and a lack of improved cassava seeds” he said
Dr Dixon emphasized the need for government and development partners to address the yield gap question in order to move the cassava sector forward, saying, “cassava as a poverty fighter, and as “Africa’s best kept secret” that if fully harnessed could change the fortunes of farmers and contribute significantly towards the transformation of African economies”.
Speaking further, he identified low use of mechanization, limited access to finance and markets, poor transportation, and limited use of fertilizers and other inputs as bottlenecks that have limited the potential of cassava in Nigeria.
He however suggested that there is the need for the government to develop a market oriented strategy for the root crop and to create incentives and efficient input delivery systems as well as to involve youth in cassava production, and more importantly, to sustain the local content policy of 10 percent inclusion of cassava in wheat flour for baking of bread.
The Project Leader then emphasized the need to fund research and development, the called for the building of strong farmer groups and linkages while at the same time providing the necessary linkages.
IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga in his remark advised Nigeria government to take advantage of cassava and create wealth and jobs for the young population, saying,“value addition from cassava can generate jobs and income for youth, women, and investors in cassava from farmers and all stakeholders.
Speaking through the IITA Cassava Breeder, Dr Peter Kulakow, Dr Sanginga said “youth in Agribusiness in particular will provide the new business innovators to both drive down youth unemployment and fill agriculture with a new generation of vitality and expertise.”
He then reiterated the commitment of IITA to support Nigeria towards agricultural transformation.