Cassava (Manihot esculenta) plays a pivotal role in Nigeria’s agriculture and economy. As the world’s largest producer of cassava, Nigeria’s cultivation of this versatile crop has grown significantly over the years. Over the years, Nigeria’s cassava production has experienced significant growth, establishing itself as a key player in the nation’s agricultural landscape. In 1972, Nigeria’s cassava production stood at 9.57 million tonnes. This increased to 33 million tonnes in 1999, 45 million tonnes in 2009.
Presently, Nigeria produces over 63 million tonnes of cassava, making the country the world’s largest producer. This is harvested from a vast expanse of nearly 6.5 million hectares, with a yield of 9.1 tonnes per hectare. Benue State stands out as the top producer of cassava. In 2019, it contributed 3.54 million metric tonnes to the national cassava production, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The cassava starch market has also witnessed significant growth. It was valued at $118.81 million in 2021 and is projected to reach $198.11 million by 2029, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6% during the 2022-2029 forecast period.
There has always been a high demand for cassava products in Nigeria. About 500,000 metric tonnes of cassava flour are demanded annually for making bread, biscuits, and other snacks. Also, the leaves of this crop are rich in nutrients and, therefore, are demanded in high amounts by livestock feed mills. The leaves are also found to contain up to 38.1% protein and can be consumed by humans if thoroughly cooked or dried.
Nigeria accounts for at least 21% of global cassava production. The country exports cassava to various nations, including the United Kingdom, Ghana, Spain, Canada, and the United States of America. In 2021, Nigeria exported cassava worth $1.02 million. Cassava has always been important to Nigeria’s economy. Notably, cassava contributes to about 45% of Nigeria’s agricultural GDP; this reflects its pivotal role in sustaining the nation’s rural economy.
However, challenges like post-harvest losses, transportation difficulties, and inadequate large-scale processing facilities have limited the industry’s potential. To fully harness the potential of this crop, it is imperative to address these challenges. Efforts should be directed toward improving post-harvest handling and storage facilities.
The perishable nature of cassava makes efficient storage essential, as cassava roots can spoil within 48 hours if left unprocessed. By investing in better storage infrastructure and practices, the nation can significantly reduce post-harvest losses. Also, there is a need to address transportation problems and increase investment in large-scale processing facilities.