Feb 17, 2009
BusinessDay - Lagos,Nigeria
Policy inconsistency government, and lack of will by government agencies to executive policies and negative attitude of flour millers have caused the shutting down of 100 cassava flour plants across the country. Ayo Olubori, President of National Association of Cassava Processors and Marketers told business Day “Over 100 small and medium entrepreneurs of High Quality Cassava Flours across the country have closed down as a result of these problems. Each of these entities has direct employment of minimum of 20 workers, indirect employment of minimum of 30 workers including peelers, farmers, transporters, among others, who are now out of jobs as a result of non-acceptance of High Quality Cassava Flour by the flour millers”.
Ayo Olubori, accused Nigerian flour millers of killing the 5-10 per cent cassava flour inclusion project. Said he, “While flour millers kill the cassava flour input requirement, the pharmaceutical companies are number one killers of the enforcement of cassava starch in Nigeria ”.
Moreover, it would be recalled that in line with revised prohibition list (trade) 2008-2012, wheat flour under HS codes 1101.0000 can now be imported into Nigeria processed and bagged. This goes to compound the problem further.
Said Olubori, “The Standard Organisation of Nigeria should pick samples from the open markets for analysis. They should stop truncating government policy and frustrating the rural poor who are the majority in the nation’s population with farming as their mainstay.”
Olubori, an engineer, cassava processor and marketer said inconsistency in government policies coupled with lack of will by government agencies to religiously executive policies and other factors were beginning to discourage Nigerians in the Diaspora “who are interested in agriculture” as well as international donor agencies on cassava related activities from Nigeria.
And only recently, the federal government approved the importation of cassava products into the country. Ndoma Agbor, Nigerian Cassava Processors and Marketers Associations’ executive and spokesperson told Business Day, “An extract of the newly revised import prohibition list (trade) which will run from 2008-2012 only recognizes cassava tuber with H.S 0714. 0000 while the other products of cassava such as flour, chips, starch, garri etc could now be legitimately imported into Nigeria . This raises question on the commitment of the Federal Government to 10 per cent cassava inclusion policy and the multiplier effects in the economy in terms of loss of employment that will greet the cassava industry as well as the fate of those who collected loans from banks to either expand farms or expand processing capacities.
He said this policy inconsistency “is life threatening and a move to seek to close the local cassava market throwing into dungeon the labour that is housed by the cassava industry as well as those employed by the Flour Milling industry since importation of finished wheat flour is now supported by the new policy.”
It would be recalled that the Federal Government mandated flour millers in the country to include 10 per cent cassava flour in flour milled for bread baking and other confectionaries effective July 2006. Government later gave 5-10 per cent as the range allowed.
Meanwhile, Flour Millers Association of Nigeria (FMAN) instituted a N500 million Cassava Empowerment Fund as a revolving loan since over two years ago. The fund, which is currently domiciled at the Nigerian Agricultural Credit and Rural Development Bank, is meant to assist cassava farmers in meeting the cassava flour demand of millers which is put at 300.000 metric tonnes per annum.
Millers’ inability to execute the federal government policy on 10 per cent flour inclusion in bread baking and other pastries, which took effect since July, 1, 2006, has been blamed on insufficient cassava flour from the domestic market.
The initiative from FMAN to establish the cassava empowerment fund was borne out of the fear by the millers that their operations might suffer greatly due to the inability of cassava farmers to meet the millers’ demand for cassava flour estimated.
The Empowerment Fund was first managed by the Bank on Industry (BOI) and later transferred to the Nigeria Agricultural Cooperative and Rural Development Bank (NACRDB). The fund is segmented in such a way that N300 million dedicated to cassava processors while N100million is for Cassava Growers. The remaining is earmarked for other cassava activities including research institutions.