Cassava stakeholders ask for subsidy to boost export

STAKEHOLDERS in cassava production, utilisation and development yesterday met in Lagos where they charged the Federal Government to provide subsidy and other incentives for the development of the crop as obtains in other countries, if Nigeria is to achieve set revenue targets in cassava production.

At the meeting were representatives of the Flour Millers Association of Nigeria (FMAN), Nigeria Cassava Processors and Marketers Association (CPMA), Cassava Farmers Association (CFA), Association of Small and Medium Scale Industries (NASI), Nigerian Institute of Food, Science and Technology (NIFST), Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation and the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, (FIIRO).

The stakeholders, who met at the premises of FIIRO, also asked the Federal Government to rescind its decision to strike out flour from the Export Prohibition List.

The meeting noted that the delisting last year had opened the floodgate for the importation of all sorts of flour into the country, most of which failed to meet laid down criteria, including the requirement that flour to be used in Nigeria must have 10 per cent cassava content and be fortified with Vitamin A.

According to the stakeholders, the high cost of producing cassava has made it difficult for the country to meet its cassava export capacity and the demand by consuming nations.

A participant who represented FMAN at the meeting, Alhaji Olalekan Saliu, cited the recent case of Chinese firms that wanted some high-quality cassava chips, which demand Nigeria could not meet due to high production cost.

Saliu lamented that the high cost has made Nigerian cassava products non-competitive in the international market.

Director-General, FIIRO, Oluwole Olatunji, said cassava was a magic crop that could yield as much foreign exchange for Nigeria as crude oil if conscious attention was devoted to its production and diversification by government.

According to him, one way government could aid the development of the crop is by elevating its cultivation from subsistence level to commercial farming by making low interest credit available to cassava growers.

Addressing the gathering, Project Manager, Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (CAVA), Prof. Lateef Sani, said while Nigeria was the largest producer of cassava in the world, Thailand remained the world's number one exporter of cassava products.

He therefore, called for concerted efforts among stakeholders and the government to overcome this discrepancy.

Representative, Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, Mrs. Ijada Mckena, whose organisation is funding CAVA in five African countries including Nigeria, urged the stakeholders to do more to accelerate the realisation of CAVA's objectives.

Mckena renewed the pledge of the Foundation to continue to partner the private sector and other stake-holders in the overall interest of CAVA to ensure that farmers in particular and other investors involved in cassava revolution projects reap commensurate gains.

National President, NIFST and Vice-Chancellor, Bell University of Technology, Prof. Adeyemo Adeyemi, informed the meeting that the Bill on 10 per cent cassava flour inclusion in bread-making had scaled the second reading at the National Assembly./span>

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