A national drive to increase cassava production is gathering strength. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Nigerian Incentive Risk-based System of Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) are to roll out initiatives to support cassava farmers to boost production. This was the high point of African Agribusiness Supplier Development Programme (ASDP) cassava value chain roundtable in Lagos. DANIEL ESSIET reports.
HOW to boost national economic growth through broad-based productivity measures topped discusssions at the African Agribusiness Supplier Development Programme (ASDP) cassava value chain roundtable in Lagos.
The forum was organised by the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) Nigeria, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development(FMARD) and the Nigerian Incentive Risk-based System of Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL).
Resident Representative, UNDP, Mr Opia Kumah, noted that the fall in the price of commodities, especially crude oil, underscored the need to position agriculture as a major growth driver.
Kumah said cassava was one of Nigeria’s most important crops and that there was a need to boost its yields.
According to him. the efforts would not only support domestic demand but also strengthen productivity.
He said: “The African Agribusiness Supplier Development Programme is one such initiative. The ASDP aims to improve the productivity of small and medium agribusiness by facilitating support, including training, advice, access to inputs, organisations/ standardisation and linking them to off-takers. These benefit the industry by improving the reliability of supply and ensuring off-takers received high quality agricultural products for processing and marketing.”
In Nigeria, he said, the ASDP was focused on cassava and rice—two crops with enormous comparative advantage across many states, and which can generate economic multiplier benefits.
The project, according to him, is being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System in Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) with support from UNDP.
He said the roundtable was a step in ASDP’s approach, and that it would bring together stakeholders in the value chain to discuss some constraints and network for the long-term supply chain.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Chief Audu Ogbeh said agriculture was a priority of the administration to diversify the economy, with the private sector taking the lead while government provides support infrastructure, control processes and oversight.
Represented by the Director, Planning & Policy Coordination, Mrs. Olubunmi Siyanbola, Ogbeh observed that Nigeria was one of the leading producers of cassava, with about 40 million metric tonnes yearly.
He added, however, that cassava contributed close to zero percent in value added trade in cassava-based products because of Nigeria’s inability to exploit the high value derivatives from processing into starch, flour, sweetener, and ethanol, among others.
According to him, this was due to the disconnect among stakeholders in the value chain.
He said it was hampering the uptake of cassava roots produced by farmers, thereby limiting the efficiency of processors, among other supply concerns.
He said the government had put some fiscal measures in place to encourage the cassava value chain.
“These include zero duty on equipment and machinery, 15 per cent levy on imported wheat, establishment of cassava bread development fund and distribution of 24 million stems of improved cassava varieties to encourage production of high quality cassava flour (HQCF). With these measures, government was able to attract reputable starch production companies to the sector. Consequently, the following large starch factories were established: 100,000 metric tonnes (MT)/year Starch factory in Kwara State, by Green Tech in Agbarra, Ogun state; Iseyin in Oyo State and another 12,000 (MT)/year was built in Kogi State,” he added.
He noted that the ministry was working with the African Development Bank (AfDB) to reposition the Staple Crop Processing Zone (SCPZ) and that the cassava value chain was key in the arrangement to attract local and world-class firms to invest in the chain.
NIRSAL Managing Director Mr Aliyu Abdulhameed said the agency would empower farmers to increase their wealth and food production.
Represented by Executive Director, Technical, Mr Babjide Arowosafe, Abdulhameed said NIRSAL was focusing on ensuring availability of agriculture finance, by promoting risk mitigation products.
He said the organisation was ready to work with the government and development partners to position cassava as a major transformational crop, which could be a game-changer in national development agenda.
Programme Specialist, Regional Private Sector, African Facility for Inclusive Markets (AFIM), Regional Service Centre for Africa,UNDP, Ms Pascale Bonzom, said 80 per cent of farms in sub-Saharan Africa were under small-holder production, supplying up to 90 per cent of the food in some countries.
She said ASDP intended to improve the productivity of farmers and agribusiness suppliers by facilitating support in form of training, advice, access to input, organisation, standardisation and linking up with lead firms.
She said six countries—Angola, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya and Nigeria—have carried out a feasibility study for a national ASDP and prepared a project document or a concept note.
Rural Institutions Development Specialist, Third National Fadama Development Project (FADAMA111), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Thomas Arokoyo, said cassava farmers struggled with low agricultural productivity.
He said public-private partnerships in the sector would make it more attractive for the private sector to venture into agro-processing and investments in the sector.
Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA) President Pastor SegunAdewumi said cassava was an industrial crop, which could reduce imports, increase exports, create employment and increase small-holder farmers’ incomes.
He called for a more-conducive policy environment to promote public-private-partnership (PPP) in the sector. This, he said, would make the sector more attractive as there were lots of opportunities in the industry as well as challenges.
According to him, market prospects for cassava was bright if the supply challenges could be addressed through policy interventions.
Niji Group Chief Executive Adeniji Kolawole said the cassava value chain, if structured properly, could be an economic transformational tool.
He urged farmers to use machines produced by indigenous engineers to boost produce.
SOURCE: THE NATION NEWSPAPER