Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world.  Though cassava is produced in 24 of the country’s 36 states, farming and processing are dominant in the southern part of the country.

The cassava value chain is very huge and one can make money from it in several ways from farming to processing into food such as garri, fufu, to industrial production of high quality flour, starch, ethanol and animal feed. Global demands for flour, starch, ethanol, chips and pallets run into several billions of Naira.


cassava farm

Cassava farming is very easy, interesting and known for its low input-high output nature.  Its soil adaptability is wonderful unlike other crops.  It can be planted at any time of the year provided there is enough moisture for the stem cuttings to take root.  Average yield hovers around 15-25 tons/hectare, though this yield is very low compared with countries like Thailand with an average yield of 40 tons per hectare. However, efforts are being made by stakeholders to improve yield. Research institutes are working concertedly to improve and have available cassava varieties. Now there are more than 40 cassava varieties in use.  These improved varieties are available at the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike or International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), depending on what the farmer wants; for garri, starch, ethanol or cassava flour.  Notwithstanding, the following varieties are recommended for their high yield and processing quality.  TMS30572, NR8082, NR8083, TMS4(2), TMS81/00110, TMS92/0326.

In addition, experts advocate good farming practices in order to improve yield.  One, it is better to have mechanized farming; (use of tractors, plough, harrow, planter boom sprayer, cultivator and harvester).  Not only, will it increase yield, it reduces labour and production cost.  It takes about 45 minutes to plant one hectare of land mechanically and more so, cassava roots become bigger in loose and fertile soil.  As part of good farming practice, a minimum of 60-70 bundles of cassava stems per hectare planted by 0.8m x 1m spacing, which is about 12,500 plants per hectare, is recommended.  Usually, cassava can be planted any time of the year, but for commercial farming, it can be planted four times in a year, starting from April to October. To be able to achieve the desired yield, good and effective pest control, weed management and right application of fertilizer are very necessary.  Correct herbicides and timely application should be done.  Typically before planting the stems must first be sprayed with glyphosate and thereafter apply appropriately. On application of fertilizer, experts advocate the use of a minimum of four bags of fertilizer per hectare, though this will depend on the fertility of the soil. Selling the cassava roots is easy.  There are many buyers; food, flour, starch and ethanol producers, who are ready and on the lookout for quality cassava roots.  The price varies depending on location and demand.  A ton can be between N22,000 – N25,000 per ton.  Production cost (from land preparation to harvesting), depending on the location ranges from N100,000 – N150,000 per hectare.  So, conservatively, with an average yield of 10 tons per hectare and N20,000 per tons of cassava tubers, EBITDA is N100,000/hectare.

The cassava value chain includes cassava flakes, popularly known as garri, fufu, cassava flour and cassava starch, glues and adhesives, chips, ethanol and glucose syrup. These products have high demands locally and can as well be exported to other countries.  Cassava roots are a relatively cheap source of raw material containing a high concentration of starch (dry-matter basis) that can equal or surpass the properties offered by other starches (maize, wheat, sweet potato, and rice) for the production of flour and starch.  Not only that it is readily available, its peculiar characteristics such as high level of purity, excellent thickening, a neutral (bland) taste, etc., makes it preferable for the production of flour and starch. Cassava tubers are equally raw materials for noodles production industries, so a farmer will never have a problem selling the products quickly and profitably.

Generally before venturing into either cassava flour or cassava starch processing, there are important things to consider.  They are land/location, environment, accessibility, transportation, waste disposal facility, etc. For instance, the land must be enough to contain a processing factory with raw material and finished product storages, maintenance workshop, test and check office, sales office, etc. Secondly, the environment has to be adequate and requisite.  Because lots of water is required to process cassava flour or cassava starch, it is better to have the factory near a water source and a river to discharge waste water.  Also the factory should be near the farm because the tubers have to be used almost the same day of harvest.   High quality water is needed, if your water is not good, you will need a soft water system to make high quality water.  Electricity is a very important factor in the production process.  It is therefore necessary to have good back-up generators.  Both cassava flour and cassava starch processes will need a heat source to dry the final products. Usually, there are three kinds of heat source, gas, diesel, and electricity. You must consider which is available for you.


cassaava plants

Cassava starch is produced from cassava root. It can be used as food and can be converted chemically, physically, and biologically into many useful products.  There is high demand for cassava starch in Nigeria. It is widely used in industries such as: textile, pharmaceuticals, oil drilling, paper and packaging, gum and adhesives, chemical and household products manufacturing, battery, drinks and beverages, foods and so on.  The desire to conserve foreign exchange and reduce import dependency is the driving force for demand for cassava starch especially as regards its partial substitution for cornstarch in user industries.  The demand for cassava starch in Nigeria is in excess of 350,000 tons per annum. The current domestic production capacity to meet the estimated demand for cassava starch is less than 20 per cent.

Cassava starch is easy to extract using a simple process (when compared to other starches) that can be carried out on a small-scale with limited capital. It is often preferred in adhesive production as the adhesives are more viscous, work more smoothly, and provide stable glues of neutral PH. The development of both the food and non-food uses of cassava starch have made much progress and continue to have a bright future.

Starch can be classified into two types: native and modified. Native starches are produced through the separation of naturally occurring starch from either grain or root crops, such as cassava, maize, and sweet potato, and can be used directly in producing certain foods, such as noodles. The raw starches produced still retain the original structure and characteristics and are called ‘native starches’. Native starch is the basic starch product that is marketed in the dry powder form under different grades for food, and as pharmaceutical, human, and industrial raw material. Native starch has different functional properties depending on the crop source, and specific types of starch are preferred for certain applications. Native starch can be considered a primary resource that can be processed into a range of starch products.

Starch can also be produced using modern technology/equipment. The cost of establishing a modern cassava starch factory may vary depending on the plant capacity and other variables.  For instance a 24-ton per day capacity plant of dry starch requires about 2 hectares of land.  The costs of the processing equipment will depend if it is imported or locally fabricated. Irrespective, the equipment should be one known to have the highest production efficiency.  With suitable cassava varieties, yield extraction rate may exceed 24%., but for production assumption, 23% can be used.  With this extraction rate, a total output of 7,200 tons/year of starch and 3,300 tons/year of waste or refuse (local market) will be achieved from input stock of 31,300 tons/year of fresh cassava roots. In order to achieve full capacity utilization (31,300 tons/year of fresh cassava roots), a total land area of 3,100 acres of 1,255 hectares will be needed for the cassava cultivation; that is fresh cassava root approximate yield of 10 tons/acre/year.  From above parameters, one can scale the plant capacity vis-à-vis the requisite raw materials, size of the cassava farm, starch output, etc.


cassava flour

High quality cassava flour is simply unfermented cassava flour.  It is not the same with ‘elubo lafun’, the staple food of Egbas in Ogun State.  Cassava for producing flour should be harvested and processed the same day.  In essence, there should be no fermentation of the cassava at al.

Cassava flour production is very profitable.  It serves as derivatives in the production of many products such as bread. Cassava flour can be mixed with wheat at up to 10% without any adverse effect on the taste and texture of the product.

Processing of cassava tubers into cassava flour follows the typical process of washing, peeling, crushing,, dewatering, etc. However, to process quality cassava flour, the cassava fresh roots must be healthy without rot and should be processed within 24 hours after harvesting. With IITA designed production process, capital investment requirements for flour production has been minimized.  Typical machines include knife, grater, press dryer, hammer mill, sifter/granulator, packaging materials, stitching machines, etc.

To optimally harness this value chain, it is better to have the upstream – cassava farm, because it is not every variety that is good for cassava flour.  One can harvest or buy cassava roots and process at third party drying centres and still make profit. Or one can have the full processing plant installed.

At a production extraction rate of 30%, one ton of cassava tubers, when processed yields 0.30 tons of cassava flour, while at 50%, one ton of cassava tubers yields 0.50 ton of cassava chips.  If a ton of cassava floor sells for N150,000 per ton and cassava chips N80,000 and average costs of producing one ton of cassava roots and one ton of cassava flour are N12,500 and  N17,000 respectively, gross profit margin is better when you just plant, harvest and sell off the cassava roots instead of processing to get the derivatives.

ID CIS2 Idika Aja, ACS, writes from Lagos.  For comments and inquiries via or 08034003768

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