Director-General, Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) Prof. Peter Onwualu, said on Tuesday in Abuja that Nigeria did not need a law to encourage cassava utilisation.
Onwualu said rather than official policy, aggressive promotion, encouragement and training would encourage millers and bakers to embrace the use of cassava as part of composite flour.
He said at a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria’s (NAN) that though cassava was primarily used as food, it could be used as industrial raw material and for the manufacture of more than 1000 different products.
He said that over the years, the RMRDC had been partnering with flour millers on how to add 10 per cent or 20 per cent cassava flour to the normal flour for baking.
“We consider cassava as an industrial raw material. Of course you know cassava has many uses; you can have up to 1000 different products from cassava, so it’s not just cassava flour.
“We are talking about cassava flour because that’s an area that if we succeed, the quantum of flour that can be used can be enormous and therefore we can reduce a lot of foreign exchange.
“The ultimate thing is to get bakers, confectionary producers, everybody who needs flour to start using it.
“The idea was that if they agree to start using this then naturally, their suppliers will know that they are also looking for high quality cassava flour as well as wheat.
“And so those suppliers will begin to look for those who can produce this high quality cassava flour.
Onwualu also told NAN that there had been attempts in the past to make flour millers to add percentages of cassava that was recommended alongside wheat, but such had not yielded much result.
He said that if millers had cooperated fully, those who intended to go into high quality cassava milling would have been guaranteed ready market.
The director-general said the frustration in getting the required machines for full cassava processing was a major challenge in the cassava industry, but assured that the RMRDC was already partnering to get involve local fabricators.
He particularly pointed at high quality cassava flash dryer, which he said posed a major challenge to fabricate locally in the past, but expressed satisfaction that with the intervention of the RMRDC, good local fabricators of the machines had emerged.
Onwualu urged entrepreneurs to take advantage of the technology to begin the production of high quality cassava flash dryers.
“So you can have like 1000 or 2000 of such cassava mills all over the country run by private people not by a research institute or a government agency and they will be producing and then some business men can buy from them and supply to the millers or to the bakers.
“Another approach would be to train bakers and people who make cakes and so on to know how they can do the mixing.
“And we have thousands of bakers and if these people were trained and they agree and they are motivated to go into this, you don’t need any National Assembly or anybody to enact a law.
“They can just gradually be using this; 10 per cent 20 per cent as long as they adhere to the quality and actually NAFDAC has a standard for high quality cassava flour.
“If you conform to that we are sure that that flour is safe and so I believe that this is the way to go.
Onwualu also called for greater empowerment of private sector operators to enable them to change their production line and harness research findings in cassava flour production.
He said that if fully implemented and bakers as well as mixers began to use cassava flour, the economy would be the better for it.
He said that although Nigeria was already the largest producer of cassava, a lot of work still had to be done in the area of value addition.
Onwualu told NAN that the council had investment profiles on the many uses of cassava and was willing to share such with willing investors.
IITA Develops New Potato Variety
Empowering, Novel, Agri-Business Led, Employment, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (ENABLE TAAT) has recently developed Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) species to tackle malnutrition and reduce diabetes in Africa.
The ENABLE TAAT Field Trainer of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Mr Murtalab Adedamola, made this known in Ibadan yesterday.
He said that the development of the potato species was one of the plans of IITA, aimed at combating malnutrition and attaining food security in Africa. Adedamola said that OFSP was different from the Irish potato, adding that it contained a lot of water, Vitamin A, high carotene and low level of sugar. “It has two varieties – King J and Mothers’ Delight, and it can be used for baking cake, snacks and bread.
“It is stress-free, its cultivation cycle is within three months; it is not a tuber but a root and it does not go deep into the soil like cassava.
“The growth continues even after harvesting, it is good for children and diabetic patients because of its low level of sugar. Farmers can plant a hectare with just 500kg. vines of OFSP, which multiplies.
“They should cut the vines together, bundle them together, weigh them and then plant them. Farmers can plant at a depth of 20 or 25 cm and at an angle of 45 degrees because the spacing can determine the yield,” he said. Adedamola advised farmers to always apply MPK fertiliser to the crop after two weeks of planting, as the exercise would go a long way to improve the yield if the crop had access to water. The field trainer said that the maintenance of an OFSP farm would not require much weeding, adding that the soil would crack while its flowers would shoot out to signal the appropriate time for harvesting. He, however, warned that the King J variety of OFSP was better grown in the northern parts of the country, while the cultivation of the Mothers’ Delight type would thrive in the South.
“In Cameroon, we have four varieties of OFSP and in Cote d’Ivoire, there are six varieties. Farmers are planting it already but the produce lacks market because people are not aware of its numerous benefits. “When people learn about its benefits, they will start patronising the farmers well; we will definitely have more varieties of it in Nigeria because it is a crop that can transform the livelihood of potato farmers perfectly,’’ he added.
Assembly Approves N1.5bn Agric Loan
The Niger State House of Assembly has passed a resolution granting approval to the state government to access a N1.5bn facility for the implementation of the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).
The House passed the resolution yesterday following the presentation of the report of Joint Committees on Finance and Agriculture.
Presenting the report, Chairman of the Joint Committee, Alhaji Abdullahi Mammagi, said it interfaced with relevant stakeholders to ascertain the justification for the request made.
Mammagi noted that the facility was being offered at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum and 60 months repayment period by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“From the interface held, the committee found that the Federal Government had offered a window of facility to states to support implementation of AADS in states.
“The CBN, through Zenith Bank has offered to provide the of N1.5bn. The facility is offered for a period of 60 months, at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum.
“This is deemed to be highly competitive in terms of what obtains in the banking industry.
“Niger State has keyed into the programme as its implementation would stimulate and support socio-economic development in the state,” he added.
According to him, the repayment cost was manageable, adding that it would not be too much burden on the monthly cash flow of the state.
Similarly, the House commenced debate on the 2019 budget by the governor.
NGO Urges FG To Increase Agric Financing
The Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative (FBIN), an NGO, has appealed to the Federal Government to increase its funding on agriculture, especially for women and youth farmers to increase their yields.
The Founder of the initiative, Mrs Nkiruka Nnaemego, made the call on Monday in Abuja at the Yfarm National Colloquium on Attracting Public Financing in Sustainable Agriculture for Youth and Women Small Scale Farmers.
Nnaemego said that the Nigerian government had committed to the 2014 Malabo Principles of ensuring increase in public funding to at least 10 per cent of the national budget to the agricultural sector.
According to her, this will enable the countries effectively implement their programmes to reduce hunger and increase productivity among in Africa.
She said that this commitment had not been achieved and it was affecting the productivity of small scale farmers, who consisted of about 70 per cent of the country’s farming population.
“This colloquium provides a unique platform for stakeholders in agriculture to brainstorm on innovative models and approaches for attracting public financing and government involvement in agriculture.
“From the Malabo declaration, which African Heads of State agreed to commit 10 per cent of their countries’ budgets to agriculture, it is unfortunately that Nigeria is still below three per cent.
“Agriculture is the way to go now since the country is looking for other options aside oil. We need to increase finance in agriculture.
“Although the Federal Government is trying, but it should try harder,” she said.
She explained that Yfarm project’s goal was to promote a youth/women-led agribusiness society by reducing poverty, thereby increasing active youth/women participation in sustainable agriculture by 2020.
She said that Yfarm Project had been at the forefront of policy advocacy, media engagement, capacity building and mentoring of rural and vulnerable youth/women in some parts of Africa.
“We celebrate outstanding youths and women, provide access to markets and business networking through our National and African Youth Agric Festivals and Concerts,” she stated.
The Project Coordinator, Food and Agriculture, Actionaid Nigeria, Mr Azubike Nwokoye appealed to the Federal Government to create an enabling environment to attract private investment. He further urged government at all levels to do their parts by increasing public financing on agriculture across all areas with comparative advantages.
”That is a failure in its own already.”
Soni appealed to the government to make available inputs by January not in April and May when such inputs were not needed.
The Programme Officer, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Mr Alphonsus Onwuemeka said that agriculture was in the concurrent list and urged the state governments to play their parts to lessen the burden on the Federal Government.
He acknowledged the Federal Government’s support to agriculture and urged women to take advantage of the gender unit created by government at the Ministry of Agriculture to handle women challenges.
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