The Federal Government has completed plans to build cassava processing mill with a capacity of 72,000 metric tons of high quality cassava flour in Akwa Ibom State, as part of its agricultural transformation agenda.
Akinwunmi Adesina, minister for agriculture and rural development, who said this in Uyo, the state capital, in commencement of Pro-Vitamin A Rich Cassava variety stems, said “the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will locate here in Akwa Ibom State one industrial scale modern high quality cassava flour processing mill.”
Adesina said the proposed processing mill would use 300,000 metric tons of cassava roots per year, saying “this is one of the things President Goodluck Jonathan was able to negotiate in China when we were there. With that, Akwa Ibom will become one of the major processors of high quality cassava flour in Nigeria.
“This is Akwa Ibom State where you are a massive producer of cassava. Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world and we are determined that we are going to be the largest processor of cassava in the world. We are going to turn our cassava into high cassava flour so that we can replace some of the wheat that we import.
“Nigeria has no business importing food at all. We have everything; God has blessed this country. We have land, cheap labour, we have great sunshine and we have population to eat what we produce. Nigeria should not be importing food; Nigeria should be self-sufficient and should be a net exporting country for food. In any case, I will not be a minister for food importation, that is not my job.”
Speaking on the Pro-Vitamin A Rich Cassava, the minister said many households suffered from malnourishment, and called on government to improve nutrient value of family staple.
According to him, “our goal is to reach 1,500,000 household this year and to expand that to 1.8 million households, 70 percent of them being women. We know that 30 percent of our children and 20 percent of pregnant women are strictly affected by malnutrition in Nigeria. Most of them don’t have access to micro nutrient. This is why we must accelerated effort in decision and policy marking to improve nutrition for venerable group, in particular women and children. We must scale up micro nutrient intervention. As we provide vitamin A through these varieties, we are actually building a future for the children.”
The state governor, Godswill Akpabio, said the Akwa Ibom government had placed premium on cassava programmes to “make food sufficiently available to the people, through collaboration with international agricultural agencies…. Your choice of Akwa Ibom State as one of the pilot states in this hub is indeed not a misplaced. As a government, we have in the last six years placed premium on agriculture aimed at ensuring food security.
“We are told that this improved varieties hold part of the solution to Vitamin A deficiency in Africa. The cultivation and consumption of these varieties would therefore bring succour to children and pregnant women. Besides improving the health and nutrition of the people, the cultivation of the varieties would also provide jobs, improve incomes and lift poor households out of poverty.” Akpabio, who said Nigeria produced “34 metric tons of cassava annually” and there was need for intervention that would either improve or maintain the status-quo, said “it is why this initiative aimed at improving the nutritional value of the product must be commended.”