Statement by Opia Mensah Kumah, Resident Representative a.i, at the First ASDP Cassava Value Chain Roundtable meeting, Lagos

Sep 6, 2016

[Protocol]

I am delighted for the opportunity to address this important multi-stakeholder roundtable on Cassava Supply Chain. I recognize the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Nigerian Incentive Risk-Based System of Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), who have collaborated with UNDP in organizing this event. This meeting comes barely one month after the Federal Government’s launch of the new ‘Agriculture Promotion Policy, 2016-2030’ which is designed to re-position Nigerian Agriculture as the key instrument for job creation, poverty reduction and economic diversification. The recent massive fall in the price of commodities, especially crude oil, once again underscores the need to diversify and position agriculture as a major main growth driver.

For agriculture to function as the engine of growth, however, key supply constraints, many of which are well known to us here, must be addressed. This will not only ensure food self-sufficiency and predictable foreign exchange earnings for the country, but will also stimulate industrial and manufacturing production. Experience has shown that since Agriculture employs and accounts for the livelihood of a sizeable proportion of the population, improving agricultural productivity and raising income for farmers invariably leads to significant poverty reduction.

Improving productivity and increasing agriculture-related incomes require new strategies and creative solutions. The African Agribusiness Supplier Development Programme (ASDP) is one such initiative. The ASDP aims to improve the productivity of small holder farmers and SME agribusiness by facilitating support (including training, advice, access to inputs, organization, and standardization) and linking them to off-takers. This benefits off-takers and others further up the supply chain by improving the reliability of supply and ensuring off-takers receive high quality agricultural products for processing and marketing.

However, for the ASDP to truly fulfill its promise, all actors along the value chain, from small the scale farmer to the large-scale manufacturer and marketer, must benefit. Thus, in some countries, big off-takers have invested in developing the capacity of small-scale farmers thereby guaranteeing the quality of agricultural products they receive. Yet others have supported small holder farmers to participate in activities further up the supply chain, such as basic pre-processing. Such support by off-takers yields win-win benefits for all.  As UNDP, we applaud such initiatives and commend their study, adoption and adaptation to the Nigerian situation. We are convinced that reduced poverty and enhanced livelihoods at lower levels of the value chain not only boosts production and productivity but can lead to greater efficiencies and profitability at the upper echelons.   

In Nigeria, the ASDP is focused on cassava and rice, two crops with enormous comparative advantage across many states and which both can generate economic multiplier benefits. The project and is implemented by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture (FMARD), the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System in Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) with support from UNDP.  The three implementing partners are pooling their resources and experience to ensure an efficient value chain across these two commodities.

Recognition of the importance of cassava has grown in recent times. First, it is a staple food crop and prominent in the menus offered at the family dinner table across Africa. In Nigeria, the family daily diet is not complete without at least one form of cassava food product. Today, international trade fairs in garri as a commodity are sprouting everywhere, as demand spirals in Europe, America, and Asia.

However, the importance of cassava has grown beyond its essence as a staple and food security crop. Cassava is now recognized as an essential industrial crop. It is now recognized as an essential raw material for large scale manufacturing. Across Africa, big industrial estates are springing for the production of starch, flour, ethanol and beer from cassava. Other derivatives from cassava attracting huge investments include sweeteners, glues, plywood, and paper, just to mention a few. The use of cassava by-products in the pharmaceutical industry is also on the increase. As such, cassava has a huge potential for driving economic growth and development, diversification of the economy and poverty reduction.  Linking cassava cultivation to industrial production will create jobs and improve lives and livelihoods of rural communities and farmers, particularly women, who predominate in its cultivation and low-level processing.

As with other crops, the cassava value chain faces a number of constraints including low yield, shortage and high cost of inputs, poor market structure, low uptake and wastage of tubers that cannot be absorbed by the local food processing during bumper harvests. It is estimated that between 2002 and 2011, about 48 million tons of cassava produced in Nigeria were wasted in this way. As a result, despite being the world’s largest producer of cassava in gross terms, Nigeria still does not rank among the leading exporting countries.

This roundtable on cassava value chain development in Nigeria is an initial step in the ASDP Nigeria approach. This step brings together the multiple stakeholders within the value chain not only to discuss some of these constraints, but to network for the purposes of long term supply chain relationships.  There are subsequent steps after this roundtable which will largely be shaped with the output and suggestions from today’s meeting.  The ASDP will not duplicate the efforts by other cassava initiatives in the country, but rather it seeks to close the gap among core actors in the value chain thereby ensuring benefits for everyone – from smallholder farmers, small/medium scale agribusinesses to large scale manufacturers.

To conclude, let me commend this partnership between the Federal Ministry of agriculture and the Nigerian Incentive Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and UNDP in implementing the ASDP in Nigeria. The initiative and partnership are pregnant with huge prospects that can transform the agricultural and manufacturing landscape in Nigeria. I wish to commend our partner, NIRSAL, for its contribution towards de-risking agricultural finance for key commodities, including cassava. We are keen on expanding our partnership and would welcome the interest of banks, development partners as well as private sector actors. UNDP is already discussing with other potential partners, including private actors and foundations, for support in expanding this initiative.

I would like to conclude this address with a plea on behalf of smallholder farmers who may not be fully represented at forums such as this and thus cannot shape their deliberations and the outcomes. As I emphasized earlier, the ASDP is premised on a win-win philosophy. So, in conformity with the underlying principle of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we should ‘leave no one behind’.

I wish you all fruitful and productive deliberations.

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