April 5, 2021Agric DigestMost viewedTrending
Cassava is one of the most important food crops in Nigeria. It feeds the majority of the country’s population, yet, the country has never had enough of it and the prices of derived products such as garri, fufu, cassava flour, have always remained upwards.
Things have gone worse with Nigeria’s inflation reaching the highest levels in years lately. Food inflation reached a 15-year high in February.
Benjamin Okoye, who holds a doctorate in Agric. Economics, and is the Chief Research Officer, Cassava Research Programme at the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, speaks to PREMIUM TIMES on what he considers as reasons Nigeria’s cassava production level has remained low. He suggests solutions.
Nigeria currently holds the record of being the largest producer of cassava in the world, but the trend in yield performance (production per hectare) remains low, thereby causing an increase in the prices of its derivatives. What would you say can be done to increase productivity?
As you know, cassava is an important staple food to Nigerians, it has a lot of derivative products and the importance also has to do with cassava being an export crop. But you find out that even when Nigeria is the highest producer of cassava in the world, Nigeria is not even the highest exporter of cassava and its products in the world. We don’t have a good price for our cassava in the international market. Other countries like Thailand, Brazil are far ahead of us in the export market. One reason is that our productivity is very low compared to productivity in some of these developed countries. When you look at our statistics, the productivity is about a little above 10 tonnes per hectare, but you also find out that even in our own soil at a time, the Zimbabwean farmers who came to crop cassava in Nigeria, got about 50 tonnes per hectare.
In our own case here as a national institute, we have a mandate for cassava, both breeding genetics and socioeconomic for cassava in Nigeria. Over the years, we have developed a lot of improved varieties that have the potential for a yield of about 30, 40 to 45 tonnes per hectare, but one thing you find out is that when the farmers hear or see improved varieties, they feel it is something you plant then go to sleep.
To improve the productivity of cassava in the country, a lot of awareness has to be done to help the farmers in best agricultural practices. A lot of farmers still plant their local varieties; they don’t even have access to these new varieties. We advocate for farmers to use improved varieties, follow the rules and higher productivity will come.
When given the improved varieties, you don’t just plant and go back to sleep, you have to apply inputs as and when due, plant as and when due, apply fertilizer at the right time, make sure your field is cleared at the right time. The moment weeds invade it, it will affect the yield as well as productivity.