Cassava streak hits Nebbi

CASSAVA brown streak disease has hit Nebbi district, destroying over 33 acres of cassava gardens under the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) programme.

Anthony Okwir, the district production coordinator, said the cassava variety (T.M.E 204) that was supplied for food security had been affected.

Okwir identified the three worst hit sub-counties as Wadelai, Nebbi and Erussi, which are known to be the food baskets for the region.

“We are working hard to contain the disease before it spreads further,” Okwir said.

According to Okwir, the disease is spread through propagation of infected cuttings and by a white fly vector (Bemisiatabaci).

Okwir said an infected cassava tuber shows a corky and yellow-brown necrotic root.

He urged farmers in the district to burn all the cassava stalks from gardens that have been infected.

“We have set a committee to see that the disease does not spread in the district by restricting the replanting of the infected stalk,” Okwir said.

Betty Adima, the resident district commissioner, called for help from the relevant ministries.

Geoffrey Orom, a farmer in Erussi sub-county, said: “We are worried and the Government needs to intervene to avert this situation, otherwise we predict shortage of food in the region.”

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Cassava can be Nigeria’s mega export earner

THE World Bank has said Nigeria as the largest producer of cassava, could develop its economy by exporting quality cassava and other commodities other than oil.

World Bank’s Country Director in Nigeria, Mr Omo Ruhl, said this at a forum in Abuja.

“You have the most cassava in the world but apparently it is not the best. The quality may not be there. So let us focus on how we increase the standard,” he said.
The Country Director said that one of the greatest problems with the Nigerian economy was its over reliance on oil, as well as the mono-revenue and export economy system.

“Nigeria is not a mono-product economy. It is a mono-revenue economy and a mono-export economy because in the other sectors, there are no exports, very low fiscal revenues. That is where your challenge is, but oil is only 17 per cent of your GDP, 83 per cent is everything else taken together,” Ruhl said.

He added that Nigeria stood to benefit a lot in developing its agriculture and the wholesale and retail services sectors, which, he said, were actually bigger than the oil sector.

“Oil is actually the fourth largest sector of the Nigerian economy.

The largest sector is agriculture, the second largest sector is wholesale and retail and services is the third largest

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Cassava beer plans mature

The UK-listed brewer, like many food and beverage companies, is seeking to localise sourcing – in this case, switching barley for domestically grown cassava in Africa – in an attempt to secure supplies and cut costs.

Additionally, SABMiller hopes that having a cheaper beer will allow it to tap the vast swaths of drinkers who now stick to home brew.

But the obstacles proved bigger than the brewer envisaged.

The beer is now expected to go on sale in Mozambique in six to nine months’ time, nearly a year after the initial launch plans for late 2010. Assuming this is successful, the beer will then be rolled out to other parts of the continent.

“Where we are and what we have achieved in the timing we have set, we have done quite well,” said Gerry van den Houten, technical, supply chain and enterprise development director at SABMiller’s African operations.

“But if we could have done it six months earlier, that would have been great.”

The original plan was to brew the cassava beer in Angola, and the group built a state-of-the-art brewery just outside the capital Luanda.

The setbacks ranged from political and financial – when oil prices fell in late 2009, the crunch on foreign exchange meant SABMiller could not get enough to pay suppliers – to technical issues.

The squeeze on foreign exchange prompted SABMiller to move the pilot project from Angola to Mozambique, where it has succeeded in winning concessions on excise tax: the cassava beer will pay just one-quarter of the duty payable on mainstream beer.

That, in turn, means SABMiller can sell its beer at 65 to 70 per cent of the price of mainstream beer, a level at which it aims to bring in a whole new set of drinkers. It believes the brand could account for about one-fifth of its portfolio in the region.

Mr Van den Houten said the company was now “90 per cent there” in terms of processing technology after several headaches along the way.

Cassava is largely made up of water, making it heavy and expensive to transport, and also suffers from a short shelf life once harvested.

The brewer has got around this by developing mobile processing units capable of squeezing out the water and bringing the plant to a stable (and lighter) state ready to be transported to the mill.

Despite the travails, Mr Van den Houten is confident localising the supply chain will prove beneficial.

“It has cost advantages, shortens the supply chain and gives us an opportunity to get involved in local entrepreneur initiatives and job creation,” he said.

SABMiller now imports some 80 per cent of its raw materials, including packaging, mainly from Europe and South Africa.

Cassava is Africa’s largest crop in terms of tonnage, but is very much a subsistence crop according to Mr Van den Houten.

Depending on how much drinkers take to the new brew, he reckons the company could take crops from 2,000 smallholder farmers in Mozambique.

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