U.S. food firm leads coalition to partner FG on cassava processing

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By EricJames Ochigbo

A coalition of foreign and Nigeria based agro companies led by Shine Bridge Incorporated has indicated interest to partner with the Federal Government on large scale commercial cassava processing and food manufacturing.

Shine Bridge is a U.S.-based agricultural policy think-tank and food technology transfer company.

Dr Tony Bello, Chairman, Shine Bridge, said at a roundtable with the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Security, Sen. Aliyu Abdullahi, on Wednesday in Abuja.

Bello, who is also the Founder of Shine Bridge, said that cassava had the potential to provide food, forex, and transform  economy of the country.

He said there was a large international market for cassava products as the U.S. alone imported about 80,000 tonnes of processed cassava products.

According to him, most of the cassava import into the U.S. comes from Thailand, Costa Rica, Vietnam and China.

He said that Nigeria was the largest producer of cassava and there was no reason why Nigeria should not control the lion share of that market.

Bello said that the target of the coalition was to boost processing capacity of partner companies in Nigeria, and to export 50,000 tonnes of high-quality cassava flour and food grade cassava starch at 500 dollars per tonne.

Cassava

The chairman said that working with small and medium enterprises, the coalition sought to export at least 3,000 tonnes of high cassava flour and starch by 2024, which would be increased to 5,000 tonnes by 2025 and 10,000 tonnes by 2026.

“However, we cannot create the export market or feed our people unless we transform the cassava into higher value products.

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“So, what we have been able to do in the last five years is to use cassava to make savoury snacks like pringles, to make shawarma, pizza, salad dresses, instant tapioca flakes, fortified baby food, among others.

“We have critical mass of products to help Nigeria grow its cassava sector, let’s stick together and work together.

“Enough of the going round and around on cassava bread; it is time for us to work together as talented Nigerians, we have the brain power, the science and the food manufacturing solutions.

“We need the ministry to work with our operational partners in Nigeria,” he said.

Bello said the coalition would require government intervention on access to cassava, price stability, coordination of cassava producing states and to put in word for them before the African Development Bank.

A member of the delegation, Mr Bassey Ekpo, a food manufacturing executive, assured of the quality of products and their accessibility in the international market.

Cassav

Ekpo said he would be going round the country to inspect and assess facilities on ground and to help bring them up to global standard where they were lacking.

He said that cassava could generate 20 to 30 dollars while retaining the aspect used in garri production.

“We need partners that will not get in the way of us proving how our country can do what Thailand, Malaysia and others have done,” he said.

Responding, the minister said there was no better time for such an investment than when Nigeria is trying to overcome food crisis.

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He said that Nigeria produced 34 million tonnes of cassava for food use annually, consumed 28 million tonnes locally leaving a surplus of 5.7 million tonnes.

The minister said that Nigeria imported 5.8 million tonnes of wheat, stressing that the proposed cassava initiative would substitute importation, create jobs and have multiplier effect on the economy.

Abdullahi said that sustainable processing technologies that would add value to the product and develop the value chain was the only thing lacking.

He asked the coalition to undertake more feasibility study and prepare against unforeseen circumstances that might hinder implementation of the initiative.

“There is a lot of incentives; it is the right discussion, we have all that is needed to do this, it will create jobs in addition to the multiplier effects, it is huge.

“We need a powerful consensus around the subject matter so that when the train moves, it can crush whatever wants to stop it.

“So let us all put hands together, gather the required momentum and let this train take off, that is what I want to see,” he said. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

Edited by Chioma Ugboma/Chijioke Okoronkwo

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