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Don charges National Assembly on cassava bill

Head of Department, Agricultural Economics and Farm Management, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (UNAAB), Professor Adewale Dipeolu has called on the National Assembly to expedite action on a bill that would allow 10 per cent inclusion of cassava in wheat flour.

Speaking at the Farmers’ Field Day organised in Igbaga, Ijebu East Local Government Area as part of the activities of Cassava: Adding Value to Africa (C:AVA) Programme by the Ogun State Agricultural Development Programme (OGADEP), Dipeolu, who is the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, C:AVA Country Office, noted that Nigeria stands good chances of generating huge revenue from the law that makes it mandatory for all flour millers to include 10 per cent cassava flour into wheat flour.

He said, “If the bill is passed into law, it means that for every bag of wheat being used for baking, there will be 10 per cent of cassava flour in it. That way, if the demand for bread and other confectionary increases, for every bag of composite wheat flour that you buy, then it would translate to better income for the farmers at the village level.

“We would love the National Assembly to pass the 10 per cent addition to wheat flour bill. Once that is passed into law, it becomes mandatory for all flour millers in the country to include 10 per cent cassava flour into wheat flour. In Brazil, for instance, you have what is called 100 per cent cassava flour bread.

“Cassava is our own gold, we must find a way to make sure that it brings in money, not only for ourselves in terms of domestic prices but in terms of international prices. So, government should wake up to its responsibility. We should have policy that would protect what we have here at home.”

Equally, the don condemned government’s policy which encourages importation of cassava into the country, stressing that government should rather develop the local farmers’ capacity to produce for both domestic and international needs in a bid to make the agriculture sector sufficient and sustainable.

Meanwhile, as part of efforts to increase farmers’ productivity and income, the OGADEP has urged cassava farmers to embrace TME 419, a new cassava variety reputed to be high-yielding and disease-tolerant.

Director of External Services, OGADEP, Otunba Moyo Owootomo, made case for the new variety during the event. C:AVA is an intervention programme being sponsored through the grants of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a United States-based philanthropic organization, dedicated to reducing inequities and improving lives around the world.

The event, which featured the distribution of spraying pumps and cutlasses to the local farmers, was graced by Alhaji Ade Balogun; Zonal Manager, OGADEP Ijebu zone, Mr. Olusola Olutogun; and the Oba-elect and Oyebola of Igbaga, Ijebu-Imusin, Evangelist Ayodele Adebanjo.

In his remarks, Owootomo said the farmers’ field day, which was carried out on a demonstration plot of cassava in the town, was intended to showcase the potentials of the cassava varieties distributed to farmers under the C:AVA project.

He disclosed that no fewer than 340 farmers across Ijebu East and Ijebu North East Local Governments have been encouraged to maintain the cassava field.

According to the OGADEP chief, the new cassava variety would yield three times compared to the local variety planted in the locality.

Owootomo said that TME 419 is a new variety of cassava that is found to be high-yielding, disease-tolerant and something that will increase farmers’ income.

According to him, the expected benefit of the new variety is that it’s going to increase the farmers’ productivity, adding that, based on findings in other locations where the variety has been established, it was found it yielded about three times compared to the local variety.

“Consequently, the farmers’ income will be increased and of course, it increases standard of living.”

Meanwhile, Owootomo identified funding as the major challenge confronting the cassava farmers, adding that the spraying pumps and other farming implement were donated to them in a bid to alleviate their problem.

While giving insight into the C:AVA project, Zonal Manager, OGADEP Ijebu zone, Mr. Ade Balogun explained that it aims at developing value chains for high quality cassava flour (HQCF) to improve the livelihoods and incomes of at least 90,000 smallholder households as direct beneficiaries in five African countries namely Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Nigeria and Malawi.

He added that the project was designed to promote the use of HQCF as a versatile raw material for which diverse markets have been identified in pilot studies.

The traditional chief, who spoke on behalf of the farmers, expressed gratitude to OGADEP and C:AVA for introducing the cassava variety, adding that the farmers are eager to harvest greater yields more than they used to.

“This new variety is different from the cassava variety we have planted before and I hope its yield would be greater than what we used to harvest in this town. We will continue to partner with OGADEP in ensuring that our cassava produce are of high quality,” Adebanjo said.

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