Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world with the production capacity of approximately 45 million tonnes which is almost 19 per cent of the total cassava production in the world.
Cassava, which is raw materials for countless products, has served as food for families especially in the rural areas as the popular garri is produced from cassava, and other products which form the basic daily food of Nigerians.
Being the largest producer of cassava in the world, Nigeria is yet to add more value to cassava production, as the majority of cassava produced in the country is basically used as food item domestically.
It is as a result of this that successive governments have tried to add value to cassava production through the introduction of cassava flour in bread baking and other confectionery.
This cassava flour adoption is being implemented a cross the country, but the demand of cassava for this initiative is still very poor as farmers still have their products decaying in the soil without patronage.
It is on this premise that the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF) through its intervention scheme, Cassava Mechanisation and Agroprocessing Project (CAMAP), has assisted farmers in large scale cassava production and also linked them up with industries that will off-take the cassava immediately it is harvested.
These cassava off-takers use the product as a raw material for the manufacturing of ethanol, syrup and starch.
In Ogun State, the Allied Atlantic Distilleries limited (AADL) located in Igbesa Community, uses about 75 million tonnes of cassava yearly to produce about 13,000 litres of ethanol daily and 9 million litres of ethanol annually.
Meanwhile, Nigeria consumes a total of 400 million tonnes of ethanol annually, with AADL’s 9 million liters annually, which is about 4 per cent of what is consumed locally. Therefore, the remaining 96 per cent is imported to satisfy local demand.
Speaking with the Managing Director of AADL, Rajasekar Rajavelu, Nigerian Tribune learnt that AADL consumes about 225 to 250 tonnes of cassava daily and it is the largest ethanol factory in Africa.
According to Rajavelu, “This is the only factory in Nigeria that produces ethanol, and we are the biggest in the whole of Africa. We produce 13,000 litres per day throughout the year. We consume between 225 to 250 tonnes of cassava daily. We are probably the biggest consumer of cassava. It is a continuous running plant, it runs throughout the year.
“But we are challenged by non supply of cassava. We consume close to 75,000 tonnes of cassava per year and we produce 9 million litres of ethanol every year.
“Nigeria imports close to 400 million litres of ethanol in a year, and it is an import dependent country for ethanol. We are the first to produce ethanol and out of 400 million litres, we only produce 9 million litres which is about 3-4 per cent of the total requirement of ethanol in Nigeria. So the remaining 96 per cent is still being imported by Nigeria from various countries like Brazil and India.”
In terms of sourcing raw materials, Rajavelu said they have been partnering AATF to become off-takers of cassava from farmers who are benefiting from the CAMAP programme.
He said even after getting the cassava from those farmers, the factory has been unable to work at 100 per cent capacity due to shortage of raw materials.
“We have been partnering Africa Agriculture Technology Foundation for about three years in the development of our project. They are our stakeholders in supply of cassava. They have been helping cassava farmers to produce more and we are the off takers of the cassava.
“From 2013, they have been working with big cassava farmers to increase their yield. And the number of hectares and number of farmers are growing across the country.
“We have not been having enough supply of cassava since we started the factory in 2000, there is no single year that we have had a enough supply of cassava. We have our own out-growers programme. We have partnerships with NGOs, AATF, farmers, but we have not had 100 per cent supply of cassava. Although it is not very bad, we are running between 75 to 80 per cent of our operation, but we have never reached 100 per cent operation. It is mainly because of non-supply of cassava.
“We pick up those farmers who have been helped through the mechanisation programme of the AATF; we become their off takers, so all the cassava produced by those farmers benefitting from Cassava Mechanisation and Agroprocessing Project (CAMAP) of the AATF, we buy up the cassava and still the supply is not enough to reach our 100 per cent capacity,” he noted.
He, however, said the factory is also partnering AATF to cultivate over 800 hectares of cassava farm across the country to add to the ones they off-take from farmers in order to meet their demand for raw material, and also expand their factory to other states.
“This year, we are partnering the AATF to cultivate about 800 hectares of cassava for our company to complement the supply from farmers. We have 300 hectares in Kwara State, 400 hectares in Ogun, 200 hectares in Oyo State, 300 hectares in another location with one of our partners.
“The major challenge we are facing is low supply of raw materials, then we also have the challenge of bad access road to the factory, poor power supply. So there are a lot of infrastructure problems that are affecting us in our production capacity.
“There is a ready market for cassava in Nigeria. Here we focus on ethanol production with cassava; there are a lot of companies that are into starch production, cassava chip production, cassava flour production.
“We have plans of multiplying this factory in each state in Nigeria. We are already talking with Oyo State and Osun State. We are planning to expand to different states so that we will be in a position to produce 20 to 25 million litres of ethanol in five years,” Rajavelu added.
Also in Ogun State, Mokk Investments is at the verge of establishing 100 metric tonnes daily integrated cassava plant on a 15-hectare of land for starch, syrup and ethanol at Ado-Odo town, Yewa South.
Mokk Investment is empowering 100 farmers to cultivate 500 hectares of cassava to serve as raw material for the factory.
These 100 farmers will be given four hectares of land each and provided with the necessary farm inputs to cultivate cassava after which Mokk Investments will off-take the cassava, deduct the money spent in assisting the farmers, and give the farmers the balance.
According to the Managing Director/ CEO of Mokk Investment, Adekunle Abdul “We have a project which is establishing cassava development programme. It was conceptualised by Mokk in partnership with GIZ. We are the off-takers, we have farmers under us to complete the value chain programme.
“When we started with AATF and Fortis Micro Finance Bank, what we wanted to do was to start with 100 farmers, and these hundred farmers will be allocated with four hectares each, so the whole project with AATF is 500 hectares. We started last year. So from 500 hectares, we are going to 6000 hectares. But this is the first phase, we hope to complete the first phase by the end of this year.
“The farms are located in five locations across Ogun State, Owode, Yewa South, Osun River basin, Ayetoro, Ijebu-Igbo and Atan Ijebu. All of the farms are out-grower programmes.
“We have GIZ as our technical partner, so all the farmers under us are going through trainings and capacity building facilitated by GIZ, so that the farmers can be on their own after this programme and AATF is our service provider.
“So, we are at the verge of establishing 100 metric tonnes of cassava integrated plant for starch, syrup and ethanol at Ado-Odo town, Yewa South, Ogun State, on 15 hectares of land already acquired.
“The African Development Bank (AfDB) is funding the preliminaries (financial, technical feasibility studies and Environmental And impact assessment), with our partner from Brazil, Agreenova.”
Speaking further, Abdul said the 100 metric tonnes of cassava per day was huge plant, adding that it would take 300 metric tonnes of cassava tubers daily.
He said that there was room to accommodate other farmers who are interested in the project, stressing that “we have about 3,000 farmers database between us and GIZ. So the first 100 farmers are the first beneficiaries of this programme, it is a development programme.”
Explaining further, he said, “before a farmer can qualify for this programme, he must have a land and also a registered member. We will fund the cassava production and buy it up. So all the money that we spent from cultivation to harvest will be deducted and the balance will be given to the farmer, so it is creating wealth for the farmers and guarantees raw materials for our factory.
“In Nigeria, 90 per cent of daily need of starch is imported. Over 98 per cent of glucose syrup is also imported into Nigeria. So the market is there. We are already working with Nestle, Lever Brothers through the GIZ.
“The out-growers scheme, through the intervention of AATF, provided a link to Fortis Micro Finance Bank who would support the farmers in the project on the cultivation of the 500 hectares, and the bank will also support them next year on 2,000 hectares.
“If you look at peasant farmers, they are so poor because they lack access to fund and technology. None of the local farmers can venture into mechanization if not because of this programme. So after the local farmers have stressed themselves, the average of what they get in the farm will not be more than eight tonnes. But what AATF is bringing now is mechanisation. So from this, each farmer is guaranteed of minimum of 20 tonnes per hectare,” Abdul noted.
Recounting the challenges faced in the course of the project, he said, “At the inception of the programme, we realised that over 90 per cent of the do not have land. Those that have land, do not have a plain land. So that was the initial problem that we had and it slowed the project down considerably, because as a company we needed to approach the communities for these lands. You cannot go to the government for this land unless you want to wait for the next five years. So we needed to go these communities for these lands and in these communities we have to think of the security of the investment.
“So we had meeting with the communities. We told them that they will have 20 per cent of the investment while we have the remaining 80 per cent. With that, we are no longer talking about the security of the investment because most of them now work daily on the farm, and they are empowered too.”