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Speakers at the ‘Agra Innovate Conference 2015’ have stressed the need for cohesive effort between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and stakeholders in the cassava value chains to sustain the development of Agri-businesses in Nigeria, particularly the cassava industries.
The second annual Agra Innovate conference and exhibition, held at Landmark Centre, Lagos, attracted a large number of farmers, processors and manufacturers of all scales. Foremost Agricultural organisations and technocrats in agribusiness from across Nigeria and fifteen different countries were also present.
Speaking at the event, the Country Manager, Cassava: Adding Value for Africa, Phase II, Nigeria, Prof Lateef Sanni, said that before 2002, the cassava industry had hundred percent traditional value chain approach. However, following an international conference organised by International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in collaboration with several stakeholders in 2004, there was a policy for inclusion of HQCF in flour. The increased drive to promote cassava, brought the Cassava Transformation Agenda.
The Professor of Food Science and Technology, went further to explain: “Since then, we have had sporadic increase in Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs). The first indigenous large-scale processor of cassava was established. The first indigenous large scale producer of ethanol was established, starch industries also started improving, we now have investors coming on-board and we had growth in SMEs and growth in large scale industries. However, we have low production of cassava and low supply of cassava.”
Prof Sanni, however urged the new Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to privatise all Agriculture sectors in order to lead growth of agro-industries and revive the nation’s economy.
Adding his voice to the discussion, the Director, Allied Atlantic Distillers Limited (AADL), Mr Rajasekar Rajavelu, said his company which is the biggest producer of ethanol in Africa, has benefited immensely from CAVA II Project which has been providing high yielding cassava varieties to farmers. He said the facilitation from the CAVA II Project has helped the company to have access to large tons of fresh cassava roots used at the factory daily.
He explained: “to produce 13,000 litres of ethanol per day, we uptake 250 tons of fresh cassava roots per day, 365 days a year. Farmers have never seen such uptake before. Thanks to projects like CAVA II and USAID, farmers now have access to improved varieties that give higher yields.”
The Executive Director, Manufacturing at Honeywell Flour Mills, Dr Nino Ozara, echoed the readiness of flour millers to include cassava in wheat flour. He said that the business of cassava processing is challenging, adding that if processors can go beyond the problems and produce, the Honeywell Flour Mills and other flour mills will continue to uptake HQCF.
Cassava: Adding Value for Africa Project (CAVA II), led by the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta seeks to increase the incomes of at least 200,000 value chain actors, especially smallholder farmers and processors in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi, by at least USD177 million.