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A Cassava Industrial Revolution In Nigeria (1)

Nigerian cassava production is by far the largest in the world; a third more than production in Brazil and almost double the production of Indonesia and Thailand. Cassava production in other African countries, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda appears small in comparison to Nigeria’s substantial output. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome (FAO, 2004a) estimated 2002 cassava production in Nigeria to be approximately 34 million tonnes.

The trend for cassava production reported by the Central Bank of Nigeria mirrored the FAO data until 1996 and thereafter rises to the highest estimate of production at 37 million tonnes in 200. The third series provided by the PCU (PCU, 2003) had the most conservative estimate of production at 28 million tonnes in 2002. PCU data collates state level data provided by the ADP offices in each state. Comparing the output of various crops in Nigeria, cassava production ranks first, followed by yam production at 27 million tonnes in 2002, sorghum at 7 million tonnes, millet at 6 million tonnes and rice at 5 million tonnes (FAO, 2004a). Expansion of cassava production has been relatively steady since 1980 with an additional push between the years 1988 to 1992 (and beyond) owing to the release of improved IITA varieties.

By zone, the North Central zone produced over 7 million tonnes of cassava a year. South South produces over 6 million tonnes a year while the South West and South East produce just less than 6 million tonnes a year. The North West and North East are small by comparison at 2 and 0.14 million tonnes respectively. On a per capita basis, North Central is the highest producing zone at.72 tonnes/per person in 2002, followed by South East (.56), South South (.47), South West (.34), North West (.10) and North East (.01). National per capita production of cassava is.32 tonne/per person.

Benue and   Kogi state in the North Central Zone are the largest producers of cassava. Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Delta dominate state cassava production in the South South. Ogun, Ondo and Oyo dominate in the South West and Enugu and Imo dominate production in the South East. Kaduna alone in the North West is comparable in output to many of the states in the southern regions at almost 2 million tonnes a year with very little currently produced, in the North East. The Handbook lists each state’s production and area.

These are exciting times for cassava enthusiasts in Nigeria and indeed across Africa. African Heads of State and Government agreed at the African Union Summit held in July 2003, to make agriculture a top priority and to raise budget allocations for agriculture to a minimum of 10 percent of total public spending within five years. At two recent conferences held in South Africa organized by NEPAD[2] jointly by IDEAA[3] and IFPRI in August and November of 2003 it was strongly recommended that cassava be promoted as a poverty fighter across Africa facilitated by a continental or Pan-Africa Cassava Initiative.

This initiative would be based on a transformation strategy that emphasizes markets, collective action, the private sector, research and extension. Much is being invested and much is being expected. Given the hopes and aspirations of many Nigerians, ignited by the Nigerian President’s Initiative for cassava and now   KNEEPAD many futuristic scenarios for cassava production are being debated. Three are illustrated in the following figure.

The first production target stems from the President’s Initiative itself. In order to actualize the President’s Initiative of US$5 billion a year by 2007, it was determined that 150 million tonnes of cassava would be needed by the end of 2006 (Subcommittee, 2002). Production being a function of area and yield, this target requires an expansion of 2 million ha of land (from 3 to 5 million ha) and an average yield of 30 tonnes per ha.

Research institutes, such as IFPRI and FAO suggest a more conservative production target for cassava. Extrapolating from estimates for cassava production in Africa. Nigeria’s production is targeted at 40 million tonnes by 2005 and 60 million tonnes by 2020. This target relates well to the mapping of a simple linear time trend on historical production levels. An alternative ‘middle of the road’ production target generated by mapping an exponential time trend to historical production levels suggests an intermediate production target to be followed by 150 million tonnes in the year 2020. Given these two targets in production and area, a significant increase in national yields is required.

Sixty million tonnes on 4 million ha would require an average yield of 15 tonnes per ha. Current yields have been stagnant at just over 10 tonnes per ha since the early 1990s. To advance the suggested exponential production growth target of 60 million tonnes, an enormous intervention effort is required to propel cassava yields from their current trend Increasing yields to 15 tonnes per ha is a significant challenge for the subsector.

Push factors such as government support, new varieties, better farming practices and farmer motivation are typically cited as a means to increasing yields. Pull factors such as consumer demand, industrial demand, favourable markets, and positive attitudes are not commonly mentioned. It is maintained that both the ‘push’ and the ‘pull’ are needed if the industry is to move forward. Comparing this yield target to international levels, it is observed that Nigeria is not that far from yields obtained in other countries. Yields in Brazil and Indonesia are not much above that of Nigeria and are relatively flat. Yields in Thailand have only recently taken off since 1995. To supply low priced cassava starch, Thai producers are increasing their efficiencies in production. The target of 15 tonnes per ha places Nigeria on the same linear growth path as Thailand.

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