Nigeria is largest cassava producer in the world – United Nations FAO

FAO – Nigeria cassava production is by far the largest in the world; a third more than production in Brazil and almost double the production of Indonesia and Thailand. Cassava production in other African countries, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda appears small in comparison to Nigeria’s substantial output.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome (FAO, 2004a) estimated 2002 cassava production in Nigeria to be approximately 34 million tonnes. The trend for cassava production reported by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) mirrored the FAO data until 1996 and thereafter rises to the highest estimate of production at 37 million tonnes in 2000 (FMANR, 1997; Central Bank of Nigeria).

The third series provided by the PCU (PCU, 2003) had the most conservative estimate of production at 28 million tonnes in 2002. PCU data collates state level data provided by the ADP offices in each state. Comparing the output of various crops in Nigeria, cassava production ranks first, followed by yam production at 27 million tonnes in 2002, sorghum at 7 million tonnes, millet at 6 million tonnes and rice at 5 million tonnes (FAO, 2004a).

Expansion of cassava production has been relatively steady since 1980 with an additional push between the years 1988 to 1992 owing to the release of improved IITA varieties.

By zone, the North Central zone produced over 7 million tonnes of cassava a year (1999 to 2002). South South produces over 6 million tonnes a year while the South West and South East produce just less than 6 million tonnes a year. The North West and North East are small by comparison at 2 and 0.14 million tonnes respectively (Table 2-1).

On a per capita basis, North Central is the highest producing state at.72 tonnes/per person in 2002, followed by South East (.56), South South (.47), South West (.34), North West (.10) and North East (.01).

National per capita production

Benue and Kogi states in the North Central Zone are the largest producers of cassava (IITA, 2004). Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Delta dominate state cassava production in the South South. Ogun, Ondo and Oyo dominate in the South West and Enugu and Imo dominate production in the South East. Kaduna alone in the North West is comparable in output to many of the states in the southern regions at almost 2 million tonnes a year with very little currently produced, in the North East. The Handbook lists each state’s production and area.

These are exciting times for cassava enthusiasts in Nigeria and indeed across Africa. African Heads of State and Government agreed at the African Union Summit held in July 2003, to make agriculture a top priority and to raise budget allocations for agriculture to a minimum of 10 percent of total public spending within five years.

At two recent conferences held in South Africa organised by NEPAD jointly by IDEAA and IFPRI in August and November of 2003 it was strongly recommended that cassava be promoted as a poverty fighter across Africa facilitated by a continental or Pan-Africa Cassava Initiative. This initiative would be based on a transformation strategy that emphasizes markets, collective action, the private sector, research and extension.

Much is being invested and much is being expected. Given the hopes and aspirations of many Nigerians, ignited by the Nigerian President’s Initiative for cassava and now KNEEPAD many futuristic scenarios for cassava production are being debated. Three are illustrated in the following figure.

The first production target stems from the President’s Initiative itself. In order to actualize the President’s Initiative of US$5 billion a year by 2007, it was determined that 150 million tonnes of cassava would be needed by the end of 2006 (Subcommittee, 2002).


Being a function of area and yield, this target requires an expansion of 2 million hectares of land (from 3 to 5 million hectares) and an average yield of 30 tonnes per hectare.

Research institutes, such as IFPRI and FAO, suggest a more conservative production target for cassava. Extrapolating from estimates for cassava production in Africa (Scott, Rosegrant, and Ringler, 2000) and (FAO, 2004b), Nigeria’s production is targeted at 40 million tonnes by 2005 and 60 million tonnes by 2020 (IITA, 2002).

An alternative ‘middle of the road’ production target generated by mapping an exponential time trend to historical production levels suggests an intermediate production target for 2007 of 60 million tonnes (a doubling from early 1990 production levels) to be followed by 150 million tonnes in the year 2020.

Applying a simple linear time trend to national cassava area illustrates an increase of 1 million hectares or 4 million hectares by the year 2007.

Given these two targets in production and area, a significant increase in national yields is required. Sixty million tonnes on 4 million hectares would require an average yield of 15 tonnes per hectare.

Current yields have been stagnant at just over 10 tonnes per hectare since the early 1990s. To advance the suggested exponential production growth target of 60 million tonnes, an enormous intervention effort is required to propel cassava yields from their current trend.

Increasing yields to 15 tonnes per hectare is a significant challenge for the subsector. Push factors, such as government support, new varieties, better farming practices and farmer motivation, are typically cited as a means to increasing yields. Pull factors such as consumer demand, industrial demand, favourable markets and positive attitudes are not commonly mentioned. It is maintained that both the ‘push’ and the ‘pull’ are needed if the industry is to move forward.

Comparing this yield target to international levels, it is observed that Nigeria is not that far from yields obtained in other countries.

Yields in Brazil and Indonesia are not much above that of Nigeria and are relatively flat. Yields in Thailand have only recently taken off since 1995. To supply low priced cassava starch, Thai producers are increasing their efficiencies in production.

The target of 15 tonnes per hectare places Nigeria on the same linear growth path as Thailand.

New initiatives

A number of new initiates are currently being implemented to increase yields and area to achieve increased cassava production in Nigeria.

One innovative initiative to achieve greater cassava production is being undertaken by the Cassava Growers Association. It is acquiring large parcels of land in each Local Government Area (LGA). Each parcel is intended to provide 1000 hectares of continuous land, suitable for commercial cassava cultivation. In addition to current production levels, farmers’ groups (or clusters) would be organised in such a way that, using mechanised equipment, high yielding varieties and improving farming practices, yields of 30 tonnes per hectare could be achieved in this new area. There are 547 LGAs said to be participating in this programme. If each LGA plants 1000 hectare of high yielding cassava, this would increase production by 16.5 million tones, achieving more than half of the targeted increase of 26 million tonnes by 2007.

Members of the Cassava Growers Association are currently practicing cluster farming. Presently there are about 500 groups carrying out cluster farming with each group having about 30 ha under cultivation. Members are divided into groups with land side by side. As a group they can hire a tractor to plough, spray with herbicide to reduce weeding and gain in efficiency. Unfortunately, the success of these clusters was jeopardized because inappropriate tractors were made available.

Another initiative is the encouragement of plant population to the recommended 10 000 stands per ha. If plants per ha are currently 7 to 8 thousand stands per ha, an increase to 10 000 stands per ha would increase yields to approximately 13 tonnes per ha or 9 million tonnes.

The expansion of land devoted to cassava requires some explanation. As noted in the description of the models, total land available is a major constraint. Increases in cassava land are made possible by a decrease in the land devoted to some of the competing crops. This reduction of land does not lessen the amount of food produced for home consumption. What is reduced is the amount of competing crop that is marketed.

The way forward

In the same way that the Cassava Growers Association has been provided with 1000 hectares of continuous land per LGA, there is a need for authorities to assist corporate bodies and cooperatives in acquiring similar large parcels of agricultural land for agro-industrial development. Industrial users of cassava may initially wish to produce and process cassava themselves through own sourcing or outsourcing. Either way, continuous parcels of land will have to be organized to provide efficient and continuous supplies of raw material. The setting up of such land parcels for industrial use will require the blessing, if nothing else, from local authorities.

In discussing ‘the way forward’ it is wise to be mindful of the past. In the early years of Structural Adjustment, Nigerian agricultural trade policy set out to achieve many of the objectives being discussed here; promotion of agricultural exports and reduction of agricultural raw material imports. During that time four strategies were utilized: trade liberalization, export promotion, backward integration and privatization. In the early years these initiatives gave rise to significant improvements in non-oil exports, with cocoa leading the way. Unfortunately this growth was not sustained. The reasons cited: poor quality of exported product failing to attract good international prices, inefficient large scale farms established by the private sector resulting in large capital losses and problems in sourcing supply because out growers failed to honour contractual agreements with industries (Shaib, Aliyu, and Bakshi, 1997).

In protect from these past mistakes an alternative mindset must be obtained by those producers involved in the industry. More will be discussed on this in the final section of this report the Ultimate Way Forward.

It is sufficient to mention here that various requirements are needed to initiate changes in agronomic practices, yields and land utilisation.

Commissioning a national farm and agro-industry survey would greatly assist future modelling exercises. Accurate and reliable data would also assist in setting up benchmarks for developing the cassava subsector.

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