The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, says the country is targeting to reap over $5billion annually from cassava production in the next few years.
Ogbeh stated this on Thursday in Abuja at the National Cassava Summit with the theme: “Toward $5 billion per Annum Cassava in the next five years.”
Ogbeh said that the country had over time neglected agriculture in the last 30 years.
He, however, added that the industry has the potential to employ more youths and improve foreign exchange.
Ogbeh expressed concern over the very low number of farmers accessing credit facilities in the country.
He said that the Federal Government would enhance and strengthen the Bank of Agriculture to allow farmers access to credit facilities at 5 to 6 per cent interest rate.
Ogbeh said: “Most of the Commercial Banks give loan to farmers at 28 to 30 per cent interest rate. How do farmers grow with such a high interest rate and make profit?
“We have to intensify efforts to address this problem in order to meet our target because earning in cassava industry is so high.
“Rural roads need to be rehabilitated for easy transportation of our farm products to the market. Our budget is small. We cannot in the Ministry level promise of constructing all rural roads. But something has to be done fast.”
Ogbeh, however, urged research institutes like the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture to include vitamins in cassava in the next research work to balance its nutritional content and better consumption.
Prof. Lateef Sani of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, in a paper, said the industry has the potential to create million of jobs across the country through its Value Chain.
Sani said: “By 2021, Nigeria cassava industry will represent over 5 billion dollars, spurs rural industrial development, generate millions of new jobs and create wealth for over 45 million people.
“Cassava peels, grits, chips are viable as animal and fish feeds.
“Given the large amount of Aquaculture and Livestock done in the country, this can be an interesting prospective market.”
Alfred Dixon of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in a keynote address said that Nigeria was confronted with a growing population and rising urbanisation with high demand for food and feeds for livestock.
Dixon noted: “Cassava is an appropriate commodity to feature in Nigeria’s economic development.
“Nigeria’s cassava production account for 20 per cent of the total global output but less than 1 per cent is being exported.”
The National President, Cassava Growers Association of Nigeria, Adewumi Segun, said that the association has acquired 15,000 hectares of land in Ekiti for cassava programme.
Adewumi lamented that most of the destroyed farmlands were set up with huge loans from banks collected by some members of the association.
According to him, those loans are due for repayment but the farms which were supposed to yield returns for the offset of the loans have been destroyed by herdsmen.
The national president said the association had written to NAIC for compensation but had yet to receive positive reply.
He said: “We insured our farms across the nation with NAIC. We wrote to NAIC and presented those whose were affected by the clash but they wrote to us and told us that the insurance does not cover malicious damages.
So we are on our own and then the banks are expecting the repayment of the loans,” he said.
He said that flooding was also one of the major setback being experienced by some cassava growers across the country.
Adewumi said the association was yet to enumerate the level of damage caused by flood to their farms in 2016.
The national president appealed to the Federal Government to urgently tackle the issue to encourage more yields.