…3,000 farmers to be immediate off-takers
…Shell part owner of plant
…Nigeria, though crop’s global leader, still records low yields per hectare
Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
Nigerian oil-rich sub-national, Rivers State, is set to inaugurate a cassava processing plant in May, which will have 3,000 farmers as immediate off-takers. The company will buy-off cassava tubers from the farmers regularly.
Reuben Geisen, project manager of the plant, known as Rivers Cassava Processing Company (RCPC) Ltd, said they have successfully energised and test-run the factory that will produce high quality cassava flour from the installed machines.
He thanked Governor Nyesom Wike for helping to see this project through to the end.
“Today, we have a factory that is operational and that can benefit 3,000 farmers, on a yearly basis, with a steady income by buying-off their cassava tubers. It will also have a multiplier effect across the agricultural sector as rural agriculture is still a labour-intensive activity in this part of the world,” Geisen said while presenting first product, a cassava flour to the governor.
He said the project will give sustainability to the rural parts of Rivers State.
The project manager said, the machinery and equipment at the plant were configured to produce 50-kilogram bags to key into the inclusion policy of the federal government whereby it is expected that 10 per cent cassava flour will be included in the general baking flour.
Nigeria, with 59 million tons of cassava in 2017 has been the world’s largest producer of the tropicalized tuber crop. In the last decade, it recorded a 37 per cent increase.
As of March 2021, the country accounts for approximately 20 per cent of global cassava production, thereby still ranking as the global cassava leader.
More than 291 million tons of cassava were produced worldwide in 2017, of which Africa accounted for over 60 per cent.
But the country is yet to harness this global advantage, it sore lacks in value-addition where it should reap huge through exports of different cassava products.
However, the country has benefited from weed management and best practices tools developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan, Nigeria, which has yielded results through an increase in production from earlier 10 tonnes to 20 tonnes per hectare.
Although Nigeria was leading, it still has low yield, with below 10 tonnes per hectare. The country has potential to produce 40 tonnes per hectare. The low yields stems from challenges being faced by farmers, who are mostly employ subsistence method in most rural parts of the country.
At a presentation of processed cassava flour to Governor Wike by members of management and board of the RCPC, he endorsed the plant’s inauguration next month.
He explained that in 2015, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), one of the shareholders in the company was downsizing its operations in the country, and it was going to impede actualising the cassava factory if nothing was done. So, the state government took the decision to finance the project, and today it has been completed and ready for production with the attendant job creation benefits.
Wike said Rivers government took to finance the cassava factory since it was trying to diversify its oil-dependent economy.
“We put all the funds we could muzzle, and today, we have achieved it. 3,000 farmers will be benefitting. If you calculate 3,000 farmers making money and the multiplier effects, you’ll be talking about 6,000 persons. That is creation of jobs. We are happy that we are doing it,” the governor said.
The federal government policy on cassava flour is being talked about so much. For a state that has shown the zeal and commitment, there is the need that it should be supported, he said.