The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said on Sunday in Abuja that cassava would become a miracle crop in Nigeria, if its potential was maximised.
IFAD President, Nigeria’s Dr Kanayo Nwanze, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the crop would go a long way in serving both the poor and the rich in the future, and urged the private sector to contribute to the process of developing the crop.
“To maximise cassava and its potential, we have to encourage the industry. This is where agri-buisiness high-level conference comes into place. Because cassava is not only a food crop for garri, the flour can be made into bread, muffin, range of cookies and pastries.
“Cassava also can be used for animal feed, particularly ruminants like goats; cassava produces sorbitol which is a highly sought-after component for the industry. It can make industrial starch.
“Cassava is a multiple-use crop. In fact, cassava will become a miracle crop not only for the poor, but also for the rich. And this is where our agro-industry must be part and parcel of this process.
“And the private sector has a tremendous potential to contribute to the use of cassava as the potential miracle crop for the agricultural sector of Nigeria.’’
According to Nwanze, cassava flour will serve as a substitute to many food produce as well as cut down the country’s import bill.
Besides cassava, Nwanze also noted that Nigeria had “enormous’’ agricultural potential, but must be motivated in order to achieve these potential in the sector.
“Agricultural potential in Nigeria is very huge. We have the resources, both human and natural. The use of inputs today in Nigeria is still very low.
“The average Nigerian farmer uses less than 25 kg of fertiliser per hectare. About 7 per cent of our land is irrigated when India has about 40 per cent of its land irrigated and uses close to about a 147 kg of fertiliser per hectare.’’
The president of the UN agency underscored the importance of putting in place good agricultural policies in addition to creating incentives in order to attract private sector investment into the sector.
“For us to attract the private sector, we have to make sure the conditions are attractive; the policies that govern the private sector investment.
“A private sector wants to make profit just as the poor small farmer wants to make profit; if we are going to encourage small farmers to produce more, we must encourage the private sectors to be able to buy their produce.
“So you have to have certain policies that encourage private sector investments.
“They have to be part of the development process. In fact, there’s no country that is going to make progress in development if private sector investment is not involved.
“They are the drivers of development. And I must say that the transformation agenda clearly speaks about the role of the private sector — of corporations, of the banks for providing finance; micro-finance institutions, very key. These are all private sector.”
NAN recalls that the Federal Government and IFAD signed a financing agreement last Thursday for the development of the agricultural value chain for rice and cassava in six states.
According to the IFAD president, the agreement is to assist farmers to put processing capacity in place and also ensure that market systems are working.
This, he told NAN, would help the Nigerian investor to invest in his country as well as attract international investors.
He also called on the Federal Government to put infrastructure in place, especially roads to rural areas where most of the farming takes place to cut cost and increase profit in marketing.
Nwanze also highlighted the importance of simplifying the processes of registering and approving business papers to aid industrial development.