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3. Processing and Utilization

3.1 Current Status

Cassava is a very versatile commodity with numerous uses and by products. Each component of the plant can be valuable to its cultivator. The leaves may be consumed as a vegetable, or cooked as a soup ingredient or dried and fed to livestock as a protein feed supplement. The stem is used for plant propagation and grafting. The roots are typically processed for human and industrial consumption. The Handbook lists the numerous uses of cassava in human consumption and industrial use.

In Nigeria, the consumption pattern varies according to ecological zones (Table 3-1). Gari, a roasted granule is the dominant product and is widely accepted in both rural and urban areas. It can be consumed without any additives or it can be consumed with a variety of additives such as sugar, groundnut, fish, meat and stew.

Table 3-1 Consumption Pattern by Zone and Cassava Product


Order of importance

South West

Gari, Lafun, Fufu/Akpu

South South

Gari, Akpu

South East

Gari, Fufu/Akpu

North Central

Gari, Fufu/Akpu, Starch

North East

Fufu/Akpu, Gari, Abacha

Fufu and Akpu, a fermented wet paste from cassava is also widely consumed throughout the country especially in the southern zones. Most processors however complain that the wet paste and ready to eat forms of fufu, that are currently sold, have a very short shelf life.

Estimates of industrial cassava use suggest that approximately 16 percent of cassava root production was utilized as an industrial raw material in 2001 in Nigeria. Ten percent was used as chips in animal feed, 5 percent was processed into a syrup concentrate for soft drinks and less than one percent was processed into high quality cassava flour used in biscuits and confectionary, dextrin pre-gelled starch for adhesives, starch and hydrolysates for pharmaceuticals, and seasonings (Kormawa and Akoroda, 2003).

This estimate leaves 84 percent or 28.9 million tonnes of production for food consumption, a portion of this of course being lost in post harvest and waste.

Comparable time series data describing cassava processing and utilization at the national, regional and state level is virtually non-existent. Fortunately it was possible to obtain a preliminary analysis of the first national consumption survey of Nigeria since the early 1980s[7] (Ministry of Health and Nutrition of Nigeria, 2004).

Table 3-2 illustrates daily cassava consumption per capita by geographic region. Surprisingly, urban and rural consumption are not dissimilar, confirming the fact that cassava is truly a national food with an urban market presence. Cassava appears to be a ‘food of choice’ even in the face of alternative food options in urban areas.

Table 3-2 Daily Consumption of Cassava per capita

Grams per Person per Day



Dry Savannah Zone


Moist Savannah


Humid Forest Zone








(Ministry of Health and Nutrition of Nigeria, 2004)

Assuming per capita urban consumption is 213.76 gm of cassava per day, the rural micro, small and medium food processors is supplying 4 million metric tonnes of processed cassava product a year. This is equivalent to 6.6 million tonnes in cassava root. This estimate of cassava utilization is low given earlier estimates that work backwards from production. Clearly, this suggests that a more in-depth study is required on the production of cassava product vis-à-vis its consumption by the populace.

The informed impression in most ‘cassava circles’ suggests that the demand for traditional foods in a convenience form is increasing in Nigeria. Cassava consumption is finding a new place in the diets of both rural dwellers and up and coming urban elites. Cassava is no longer only grown by the poor. It is a Nigerian food staple with industrial potential.

In terms of frequency of cassava consumption in a surveyed state, it is encouraging to processors and producers of cassava alike to find high levels of consumption as reported in Table 3-3. There can be little doubt that cassava is a staple food, when over 30 percent of the respondents in seven of the 12 surveyed states respond that they consume cassava more than four times a week.

Table 3-3 Frequency of Cassava Consumption

Percent of respondents that consumed cassava in a week


1-2 times

3-4 times

> 4 times





Akwa Ibom












































Cassava processing operations in Nigeria can be described at 5 levels of capacity. The common terms used to describe these capacity levels are household (or cottage), micro, small, medium and large.

Household level processing typically does not employ any outside labour. The household consumes virtually all of the processed products and sells a small amount to raise income for additional household needs. At present, most Nigerian processors fall within this category.

At the micro processing capacity the employment of one or two units of labour may take place while processing a variety of cassava products. This enterprise typically uses batch processing. Batch processing may take four hours per day and this would be sufficient for the owner/operator. Nigeria has a few cassava processors in this category of operation.

The small and medium processing operations typically employ three to ten workers and are very sparse at present. Large scale cassava processing is virtually non-existent in Nigeria. Large-scale operations are defined as enterprises employing 10-30 or more labourers. Large-scale operations would also have the capacity for large tonnage processing with wider marketing opportunities. Table 3-4 illustrates commonly quoted capacities for various products and scales of operation.

Table 3-4 Daily Processing Capacity by Scale of Operation and Product


Cottage to Small Scale

Small to Medium Scale

Medium to Large Scale


1 tonne/day


50 litres/day

1 000 litres/day

2 000 litres/day

Malt Drink

100 litres/day

500 litres/day


1 tonne/day

2 tonne/day


1 tonne/day


1 tonne/day

Hard Pellet

120 tonne/day


1 tonne/day

It is safe to say that medium to large scale cassava processing equipment and fabricators of this equipment are few and far between in Nigeria. Gari is the only product that is currently able to push the industry from a traditional to a semi-mechanized process. In a RTEP survey (RTEP, 2001), participants in 25 states were asked about their use and availability of processing techniques such as graters, pressers and fryers. The resulted indicated a level of awareness and use of these primitive semi-mechanized equipment in every state surveyed (IITA, 2004).

The need for innovative cassava processing technologies is enormous. Traditional cassava processing has a number of undesirable attributes. It is time consuming, provides low yields and lacks storage capacities. Many unattractively describe it as drudgery.

In a typical village, fufu processors cultivate cassava in family lots to process fufu for weekly market days[8]. Time is spent peeling roots, washing, soaking, wet sieving and copiously adding water before pressing. Fufu processing requires no less than 14 steps. On sale day, time would be spent grating and bagging.

Women typically carry out 70 percent of the work; planting, weeding, harvesting, transporting cassava, peeling, soaking, bagging and selling. The men carry out approximately 30 percent of the work; land preparation, harvesting, transporting and grating. The only mechanization might be the use of a mobile grater.

At the end of the week a basin of fufu would sell for between N300 and N350 depending on market conditions. One bag or six basins of fufu might sell for N2 100. Processors using hired labour indicated that 15-20 basins could be produced each week for market compared to ten basins without labour[9].

While seeking processing capacities and costs, the survey team found village level processors in Nigeria unable to describe their input to output capacities for their activities in quantifiable measures. Most respondents quoted the use of a basin, tin cup, plastic bucket, bags, mobile truck, head pans, etc. Attempts to standardize the weight of each proved abortive.

The lack of standardized weights and measures make assessing the efficiency of the marketing systems extremely difficult. Assessing the extent to which differences in product quality affect the prices received by processors was extremely difficult if not impossible. The lack of standard weights and measures for cassava products in the marketplace means one must rely on laboratory and industrial standards and conversions that do not accurately reflect the real world and the vast number of cassava processors in Nigeria.

Assessing labour costs was another major setback in this study. When asked about the cost of a person-day for each processing unit, the responses were not assertive. Attempts to calculate processor and trader margins were ineffectual during the interviews. The tremendous role that women play in cassava production, processing and marketing was confirmed during field visits and must be taken into consideration in the design of any labour saving technologies and trainings.

Turning now to large scale assembly in quick succession, it has already been mentioned that very few plants are in operation today. This was not the case even two years ago. In the late 1990s medium to large processing facilities were operating, many as starch manufacturers. However, many of these industries closed down because they were working at low and seasonal capacities.

Peak Products Nigeria Limited is an example of a company that was able to adjust under adverse circumstances and thus remain in operation. Its story is worth describing here in some detail.

Peak Products Nigeria Limited began cassava processing in 1998 with the sun drying of cassava flour. The flour was sold to bakeries and confectionaries through Ogun State Agricultural Development Programme (Agro Processing Unit). However, some processors began contaminated fermented cassava flour with unfermented cassava and by 1999-2000 the flour bakeries and confectionaries stopped asking for and using cassava flour. This forced Peak to shift to the production of sun dried cassava starch.

With growing demand for cassava starch[10], Peak upgraded from sun drying to the use of a mechanical dryer. Using a flash dryer, production capacity achieved 3-5 tonnes per day, 72 000 tonnes per year with a daily input of 25-30 tonnes of wet starch.

Flash drying however requires a wet milling component. Faced with environmental problems, the company was forced to stop wet milling and instead obtained wet cake from rural women. At present Peak is currently under utilized in its production of cassava starch because it has diversified production into the fabrication of flash dryers.

Existing buyers of Peak’s flash dryers are predominantly chemical companies from the Sango-Lagos Axis and a few beverages and food industries. Prospective buyers include Nigerian Distilleries in Ota who want 150 tonnes of cassava flour per day for ethanol production. DeUnited Nig Ltd., is looking to produce 60 000 tonne of cassava flour per month for noodles (Ndomie Noodles). Oil companies are interested in producing cassava starch for drilling muds[11]. Textile industries, although not currently using local cassava starch negotiations are currently underway between the Government, cassava processors and the textile industry. Finally, paper mills such as Iwopin Paper Mill in Ogun State and Okui Ibokwe Paper Mill in Akwa Ibom State may also patronize cassava starch in the near future[12].

Although no one can know the likelihood that these prospective buyers will actually purchase, their efforts to search out information on cassava processing fabrication offers hope. Their slowness to invest however may be a symptom of uncertainty regarding future government policy directions, uncertainty in being able to produce competitively and uncertainty in their ability to source cassava roots. As illustrated in the Peak example, cassava processing is vulnerable to many conditions - market vagaries, trade policy, product substitution, and adverse environmental impacts, to name a few.

The ability (or inability) to source a reliable stream of good quality cassava roots is also a real concern for cassava processors. Problems relating to sourcing cassava roots are a serious deterrent for industrialists as described in the following example of the Mosaconi Cassava Factory in Kogi.

The Mosaconi Cassava factory was a large operation that utilized raw cassava from farmers for the production of packaged gari and laundry starch for local markets. It began operations in 1993 but closed in 1999.

Before the establishment of the factory, the community used cheap cassava for the production of local staple foods like lafun and gari. When the company began, it patronized all cassava growers in the state and bought most of the cassava from their farms. This resulted in a scarcity of cassava and a higher selling price for smaller local processors.

As local cassava prices rose, public complaint by the local people surfaced that the presence of the factory was increasing the price of lafun. This resulted in host of problems such as pilfering, administration fraud, and use of poor land, lack of adequate accurate information and vandalism of factory equipment. The factory suffered as a result and faced a shortage of cassava for its operation.

Since the factory had no farm of its own, it tried to solicit cassava growers to supply cassava into the factory through radio and television jingles. This only encouraged cassava growers to truncate the maturity of planted cassava, selling cassava of less than eight months old. After many unsuccessful attempts at troubleshooting, the owner was forced to close down the company.

Clearly if cassava processing is to mature in Nigeria these types of deterrents must be resolved.

3.2 Future Targets

A number of estimates exist as to future demands for cassava-based products. The President’s Initiative provides the following estimates.

Table 3-5 Cassava Demand Estimates by President’s Initiative by 2007 (tonnes)





5 700 000

1 825 000

7 525 000


1 770 000

3 200 000

4 970 000


15 622 000

75 621 248

91 243 248


900 000

2 700 000

3 600 000


23 992 000

83 346 248

107 338 248

A recent consultant’s report (Knipscheer, 2003) provides a more conservative estimate of potential domestic demand for cassava.

Table 3-6 A Conservative Estimate of Demand (tonnes)


Current Alternative Product Use

Substitution (%)

Equivalent in fresh cassava roots (tonnes)


1 180 000


1 000 000


67 100


350 000


1 200 000


1 000 000


20 900


2 000 000


4 500 000

For this study, these estimates have been merged with some additional assumptions to generate the following estimates of potential near term demand for cassava.

Table 3-7 Middle of the Road’ Estimate of Potential Demand for Cassava (tonnes)


Potential Market

Food for Urban Market

14 157 438

Food for Rural Market

4 378 788

Food for Export

1 825 000

Food as Flour

1 170 055


675 000


335 000


139 347


22 680 628

The demand estimate in this study, different from the previous estimates, suggests that the human food market provides the greatest growth opportunity for cassava. The previous estimates suggested livestock and ethanol as the largest immediate markets. The explanation of human demand in this study’s estimate is the more than 4 percent annual growth rate in urban population in Nigeria. This means that in a five-year period nearly 13 million people are expected to move to urban areas.

It has been shown that these people continue to desire and eat cassava products. The difference between the urban dweller and the rural dweller is the tendency to develop preferences for foods that are convenient, well preserved and well packaged. These changes in preferences point to additional value addition to cassava products sold in urban areas.

Markets for modified and new products are likely to develop. The estimates of potential growth of Nigerian urban and rural demand are based on population growth numbers and the maintenance of average per capita consumption rates. As is seen from Map 3-1 urban population is concentrated along Nigeria’s expressways. This relative concentration and access to better transportation should be beneficial to promoting the consumption of cassava and cassava products.

Map 3-1 Urban Centres and Express Roads in Nigeria

The estimate for exported food is based on estimates of the number of Nigerian and West Africans outside of Nigeria who remain potential consumers of cassava products. Our estimate adopts the President’s Initiative estimates.

The potential demand for animal feed, starch and ethanol originates from the previous consultant’s report outlined in Table 3-6. The animal feed estimate is derived from estimates of the size of Nigeria’s broiler and layer industries multiplied by the amount of animal feed they required. It is further assumed that only 60 percent of the industry uses mixed feeds and those cassava products (primarily chips and pellets) could replace 20 percent of this market. The potential for cassava flour as a replacement of wheat flour is based on a 20 percent substitution for imported wheat flour.

The estimate of fresh cassava requirements for this animal feed in Table 3-7 are less than those in Table 3-6 because it was assumed that chips would be produced from unpeeled cassava. The impact of this assumption is that one tonne of chips can be produced from 2.5 tonnes of roots rather than the 1:4 ratio that is commonly practiced in Nigeria.

The starch and ethanol demand figures are based on the assumption of replacing imports of these products. The fresh cassava equivalent for ethanol in Table 3-7 is less than the estimate in Table 3-6 owing to the assumption that 150 litres of ethanol can be produced from one tonne of cassava rather than the 100 litres assumed in Table 3-6. The difference in conversion rates can be explained by different technologies and scale of production[13].

It is difficult to assess the ability of industry to process the above-mentioned amounts of cassava because these industries have been reported at running substantially below their designed capacity[14]. Due to this low level of production it is difficult to determine the timeframe required to return these industries to full capacity. This inability to absorb cassava production in a timely fashion could have damaging effects on future industrial cassava supplies.

3.3 New Initiatives

Although few, there are a number of new initiatives relating to cassava processing and utilization.

First there is an initiative by IITA to increase consumer awareness with cassava recipe booklets on non-traditional ways to eat and cook with cassava. The publication is currently being modified and will be published as a manual by IITA. Information and recipes gathered from various training of processors at IITA, RTEP and ADPs are included. There remain some local snacks that need to be upgraded and included in the recipe manual.

In addition to a recipe book for household consumption, a second booklet or pamphlet is required for commercial restaurateurs. Training would also sharpen food and beverage operators’ understanding of cassava’s place in their businesses[15].

Secondly, a project sponsored by the Department of International Development (DFID) - United Kingdom and now the European Union (EU) with NRI and the University of Agriculture Abeokuta (UNAAB) on the commercialization of traditional processed products from cassava, such as wet fufu and dried fufu has proven to be a successful initiative in South West Nigeria. This initiative has the potential to offer new opportunities to rural households - either through the sale of fresh roots or through processing and marketing. Several options exist for the commercialization of fufu, including the production of a shelf-stable product.

At the rural level, processors have demonstrated their ability to adopt low-tech, low cost improvements to processing such as the construction and use of water tanks and "double fermentation". A processing technology has also been developed for village level production of dried fufu flour using a simple drier that can operate in areas with or without electricity.

The fabrication of user-friendly equipment for cassava processing in Nigeria is also witnessing renewed interest. Since 1970, the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Osodi, FIIRO, has provided a processing plant for the mechanization of cassava gari. National, regional and private fabricating centres have also demonstrated new processing equipment such as mobile graters, modified fryers, dryers and millers. Data on the adoption rate of this equipment, however, remains scarce.

As part of the IITA Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) project, an initiative has been put forward for the collection of needed data on processing technologies and equipment. Benchmarks are needed to measure the progress of the cassava industry in the years to come. It is known that small-scale operators using low level technologies do process, but their needs, capacity or the intended benefit from moving to higher levels of technology are not known. This IITA CMD project survey will hopefully answer these questions and develop targets for future research and development in cassava processing and utilization. For example, technologies targeted to peeling may have implications on breeding of new cassava varieties.

An important initiative was started in September of 2003 when a meeting of manufactures of textiles and producers of cassava starch was organized. These types of dialogues are necessary and strongly recommended. The position put forward by the textile manufacturers was that corn starch is better than cassava starch and since Nigeria does not produce corn starch it should be allowed to import it. The key constraints identified by the textile representatives were the high moisture content of cassava starch above 13 percent, poor packaging, irregular supplies, high prices compared to imported corn starch, and unacceptable pH levels and values. The response from the cassava starch manufacturers was to suspect micro to small scale starch plants for the low standards and low starch purity levels. It was further explained, that the problems caused by low quality standards could be easily solved by patronage of medium to large starch plants. This response by the starch manufacturers is less than satisfactory and seems more like an attempt to shift blame and obtain new business. Instead an enquiry should have been suggested to determine where the textile firms were purchasing their cassava starch and what measures can be put in place to guarantee the desired product and delivery regardless of whether the supplier was a small, medium or large cassava starch manufacturer.

Other processing research initiatives currently underway include developing a thin-skinned cassava that would remain unpeeled, dried and used in poultry animal feeds. By leaving the thin skin on it increases the conversion rate but also increases the fibre content of the feed[16]. Use of a yellow cassava in poultry feed is also being investigated as a positive contributor to making yolks more yellow and higher in nutrition.

Finally although the new Federal Food Reserve Scheme has earmarked the collection of gari from various zones, implementation to date has been poor.

3.4 The Way Forward

State Agroprocessing and Market Expansion Groups (SAMEG) such as in Imo State have successfully demonstrated what can be achieved in state ADPs (Imo State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), 2003). They have shown leadership and determination in the area of processing and utilization by providing a link between processing and marketing activities. As a way forward, this type of initiative should be encouraged at all ADPs as an example of supporting the cassava industry in their state.

Imo State’s ADP SAMEG, began by surveying. Their yearly survey includes the identification of agroprocessors and industrial end users, agroprocessing equipment fabricators, participatory technology development, and an inventory of existing products by processor.

In their most recent survey, thirty-seven gari and fufu processing groups were identified and documented. Cassava starch and flour were found as processed by products of the gari produced by rural women in their villages. SAMEG also identified 21 groups that were ready to go into partnership with any end users as a processor, marketer or producer. Their stated constraints however were poor quality of processing equipment, high cost and drudgery of operation.

As an outcome from their work, stakeholder trainings and capacity building on group dynamics, record keeping, savings mobilization, participatory extension and monitoring and evaluation are being sought. A root and tuber fair is also forthcoming.

This model is the hope and inspiration for the Cassava Industry in Nigeria. Worthy of greatest praise is the fact that the Imo State SAMEG has demonstrated the implementation of its stated objectives. The stated objectives include the provision of day-to-day leadership in processing and marketing activities; linkages with industrial end users; promotion of the concept of collection centres to improve marketing, finance and capital; and acquisition of equipment through partnership arrangements with industrial end users. Although the ultimate outcome of these efforts on production, incomes and employment in the state are not documented, these activities represent the way forward.

A number of industries and private individuals are showing interest in utilizing new equipment for cassava processing. After the stakeholder workshops organized by IITA in 2001, linkages were formed between local fabricators of equipment and processors. To date, however there are no champions of cassava processing equipment to support these new equipment users and variability in the standards of fabricated equipment and installation remains. To achieve maximum utilization and output, expert opinion (or a consortium) is needed to oversee fabricators and advise new buyers of the proper use and maintenance of equipment.

Small-scale local processing facilities should be strongly considered for the rural areas. Small diesel, petrol, or electric generators should power these facilities with capacities ranging from 3-6 hp. Unfortunately, the scarcity of fuel and the frequent breakdown of these machines increase costs.

Farm processing and cottage type processing that include storage and packaging facilities should also be promoted. The typical requirements of a cassava processing facilities include chipping machines (manual and motorized), a drying platform and tray dryers, packaging devices, graters, a press (screw and hydraulic type), a dryer, a grinder/milling (hammer/plate mills), a starch collection vat and sift (mechanical and manual). The concept of mobile processing facilities should also be promoted amongst processors.

Even if time saving technologies are invented, improved processing equipment has not been introduced to village level processors. This fact has serious implications on the ability of village level processing to advance to the provision of bulk supplies, timely delivery and provision of safe consumable products.

In closing, on the utilization side, a number of relatively drastic measures is commonly proposed and implemented to increase cassava utilization such as import bans and laws which force industries to use a specific level of cassava in their production. These may help to spur cassava industries but they should be used carefully. Strict bans (such as those on poultry or textiles) may hinder regional trade and reciprocal bans may be placed on Nigeria when they wish to export their cassava-based products.

An alternative to the introduction of laws forcing domestic industries to use cassava, a memorandum of understanding could be sought between all stakeholders of the Nigerian cassava supply chain. For example, the Government could commit to relieving market imperfections and improving public goods (such as transportation, communications, electricity, policy). The private sector might commit itself to working with cassava as an industrial input improving upon it so that it can effectively compete with alternative input sources. Non-governmental organizations might commit themselves to supporting the efforts of both government and the private sector. Finally, a commitment is needed from everyone to support and defer to a ‘cassava ombudsman’ who can act on complaints of poor quality of produce, corruption and extortion that raise costs of production unnecessarily.

Lastly, an industrial commodity organization could be formed that would raise consumer and industrial awareness of cassava’s attributes and use, and ensure a minimum level of quality of product and investment in the production and future of the industry. More on this will be discussed in the final section of this report The Ultimate Way Forward.

[6] Data were unavailable for the North West
[7] The Cassava Handbook contains information on daily consumption by grams and frequency of cassava consumed per week by the states surveyed.
[8] Alternatively, local truckload of cassava root might be purchased. A truckload of cassava costs N4 000 providing three bags (or 18 basins) of finished fufu.
[9] Labour costs are typically N200 per person-day plus N200 to feed, for a six-hour day (from 0600-0700 hours to 1200-1300 hours).
[10] Cassava starch easily substitutes for imported corn starch and import bans on maize currently make cassava starch attractive. Once importation resumes however cassava starch will not be marketable at current prices. Cassava starch is currently N80 000 per tonne at factory price and N120 000-N 125 000 per tonne at market price.

As recently as two years ago, to reduce prices it was common for starch plants to mix cassava flour with cassava starch to break even. Fortunately the starch met most client requirements and plants remained in business. Since then prices of cassava have fallen and this has allowed the production of 100 percent cassava starch again.
[11] ADP Rivers State should have more information on the level of expected demand.
[12] Provided there is adequate legislation and enforcement
[13] It is assumed that there was a typographical error and that in Table 3-6 the demand for ethanol should read 0.2 million.
[14] The textile milling industry in 1983 was reported to have 55 mills with only 18 operational. Similarly liberalization of the textile industry in 1994 led to the closure of about 135 companies out of 175. The feed milling industry is also said to be producing at about 15 percent capacity.
[15] Is there any possibility for micro finance and surveillance of graduates from such training in the nearest future?
[16] In addition to this research, livestock feeding practices should also be investigated to see if placing the water in containers above the birds would lessen the caking of the cassava flour around the bird’s beaks.

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