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Agricultural raw materials processing 

Cassava

Cassava is one of Nigeria’s most important agricultural produce and Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava. The nation actually produces at least 34 million tonnes of cassava annually and as Africa’s most populous nation, could also provide the biggest market for the product since cassava is her most important food staple. Seventy per cent of Nigeria’s populace is agrarian and cassava, a crop that can thrive profitably in at least thirty states of the federation, is a constant on most farms. The average Nigerian farm allots considerable space to cassava because it is easy to grow and can exist comfortably with other crops.


Contemporary thinking demands that countries concentrate and develop resources in which they have comparative advantage and for the reasons already stated, cassava holds one of the critical keys to poverty alleviation, wealth creation, employment generation and other isotopes of sustainable development for the Nigerian nation. Apart from food security and social stability, cassava is also a potentially important industrial raw material that would not only support local industry but can be exported to earn foreign exchange for the nation.

Cassava, according to experts, can find applications in other industries apart from the food sector. It is a useful raw material in the production of ethanol (which is both an industrial solvent as well as fuel), production of industrial starch; livestock feed, adhesives, and is also an important component in drilling.

Based on products of research efforts since the 50s and 60s, cassava has been found to be a useful raw material in the bakery industry. Indeed, standardised cassava flour can be mixed with wheat flour to produce composite flour for bread making. Research has shown that inclusion of 10-20 per cent high quality cassava flour is ideal for bread making. Findings at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, also prove that a mix of soy and cassava flour is equally ideal for production of confectioneries.

At a 2013 seminar organised by the Nigeria Institute of Social and Economic Research, Ibadan, Director General of FIIRO, Dr. Gloria Elemo, earnestly canvassed the passage into law a bill for the compulsory inclusion of cassava flour in bread and confectioneries production for economic growth and development. Twenty per cent wheat substitution could save the nation as much as N20bn per annum (N250 to a dollar exchange rate) as Nigeria currently spend $4.1bn annually on wheat importation. Other applications of cassava in the food industry include use in the production of pasta like spaghetti and macaroni and the production of instant noodles, production of glucose syrup and so on.

Based on these findings, stakeholders, development agencies and even the government of Nigeria have come to the conclusion that if the industrial potentials of cassava are appropriately tapped, all participants in its production value chain – from the growers in the rural areas, to the processors, equipment fabricators, flour millers, and so on, would be impacted and this would significantly contribute to an increase in the nation’s GDP. Besides, exploiting the industrial applications of cassava would raise its rating from that of a mere rural food staple to a product of industrial significance which would also elevate the status of its rural growers, leading to a rise in the number of cassava based enterprises.

According to a study undertaken by Truman P. Phillips et al as a contribution to The Global Cassava Development Strategy and published in 2004 by the International Fund for Agricultural Development

Food And Agriculture Organization Of The United Nations, “A growing demand for cassava will spur rural industrial development and contribute to the economic development of producing, processing and trading communities and well-being of numerous disadvantaged people in the world.”

Sugarcane

Sugar is good business. It is a mainstay of Brazilian, Chinese and Indian economy. In Swaziland Sugar cane plantations account for nearly three quarter of total agricultural output with a total production figure of about 680,000 tonnes per annum and annual revenue generation of $408m. The industry is the highest contributor to net tax earnings in that country and employs more than 10,000 workers.

That level of success does not come without incentives. The government of that country supports big plantations to empower small holder growers with extension and milling services; making it possible for them to feel secure, concentrate and remain productive. Nigeria needs to learn from this because uncertainty of outcomes is one of the reasons that people shy away from agriculture. There are indications that the Nigerian government is understudying the Swazi module.

Nigeria meets almost all of her sugar needs through importation. Out of an estimated national sugar demand of about 1.3 million tonnes, only about 100 million tonnes is met through local production. Unarguably therefore, there is a ready local market for sugar and allied products in the country.

A favoured snack in the northern parts of the country, it is often seen hawked in major cities of the country with wheel barrows by peasants who do not realise the economic value of the stalks they practically pawn off for basic livelihood. Application of science to process the cane into secondary products that attract higher prices is what government at all levels needs to explore to increase revenue for development and for job creation.

By: Jennifer Abraham

Source: Punch
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