NEPAD Business Group Nigeria (NBGN) is set to hold its first Cassava Investment Forum in Abuja on November 7.
The event which will take place at the ECOWAS Conference Hall, Asokoro, Abuja aims to attract substantial private sector investments to develop and promote the necessary cassava value chains in Nigeria and in the West African region.
The areas of interventions will equally include developments of the processing capacity that will produce high quality products; identification of potential markets particularly the food, livestock feed, starch and ethanol industries. The roles of different stakeholders (producers, traders, processors, researchers, financiers, policy makers and consumers) in the cassava industry will also be identified.
The NBGN Chairman, Chief Chris Ezeh, while briefing newsmen about the forum, gave further insights to the need to develop the cassava sector. According to him, cassava is one of the nation's agricultural products that could contribute significantly to its earnings. Major studies conducted on cassava at the end of the 20th century have predicted the growing importance of this crop in Africa's economic development. It has great potential to spur rural development, raise rural incomes and contribute to food security. Cassava is a food security crop that is able to transform the country's economy.
With about 45 million tonnes annual production of cassava, Nigeria is the largest cassava producing nation in the world. The country is however not benefitting much from this staple crop, due to subsistence farming and inability to add value to the crop through processing. Almost all the cassava produced is used for human consumption and less than 5 per cent is used in industries.
The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) has recognised cassava as a powerful poverty fighter in Africa and has in this connection recommended a Pan-African Cassava Initiative based on a broad based strategy which emphasises better markets, better organisation of producers for collective action, and better participation by the private sector investment.
A similar presidential initiative was inaugurated in July, 2002 by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to develop a thriving cassava industrial sector that would not only meet local needs but also generate foreign exchange through exports. The present administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has moved a step further in this regard with its Transformation Agenda of the agriculture sector. In a recent move to revive the nation's cassava boom, President Jonathan inaugurated cassava bread with 20 per cent High Quality Cassava Flour (HQSF) as a Nigerian brand, at Aso Rock Villa in July, 2012.
The 1st NEPAD Business Group Nigeria (NBGN) Cassava Investment Forum intends to help further the Transformation Agenda of the administration of President Jonathan with respect to cassava as an economy crop for wealth and job creation.
Cassava remains one of the viable investment areas that can impact more Nigerians than Petroleum because of its numerous applications and value chains that can touch every stratum of society with the attendant economic benefits. However, for cassava to be a major contributor to economic development in Nigeria, the demand for cassava must grow more rapidly than the human population.
This can only be made possible if new uses for cassava are introduced and promoted. The forum will therefore lay more emphasis on the development and promotion of necessary value chains in cassava.