Setting Up Integrated Cassava Processing Plant In Cross River To Produce Ethanol Biofuel And Flour BY EMMANUEL ETIM

In Breaking News, Business & Economy, Columnists, National News, Opinion
Emmanuel Etim
Emmanuel Etim

Cassava is the most important root crop in Nigeria. Apart from being a staple crop in both rural and urban households, cassava is a major source of income to cassava farmers and processors in the rural areas. Cassava alone contributes about 45% of agricultural GDP in Nigeria for food or domestic purposes but its industrial processing and utilization has been very limited. It is estimated however that 30 per cent of the cassava tubers are lost as waste due to lack of processing and preservation mechanisms in Nigeria.

Nigeria is the leading producer of cassava tubers in the world with an annual production of about 40,000,000 tonnes. Cassava has many uses which include being processed into garri, fufu and tapioca to be used as food, being processed into chips, pellets and starch to be used as livestock feeds and being processed into ethanol being used industrially as biofuel. Other uses include processing into high quality cassava flour which is used in composite flour for baking.

Cross River State ranks among the highest Cassava producing States in Nigeria. An average production of 16.58 tonnes and 19.92 tonnes per hectare was recorded in 2009 and 2010 respectively and an annual production of 5943.53 and 6030.22 metric tonnes in the same period according to information from the Cross River State Ministry of Agriculture.

The purpose of this treatise is to explore the opportunity for effective utilization of cassava tubers which is one of the abundant agriculture products grown in the state through integrated cassava processing to produce ethanol and High Quality Cassava Flour. The idea is to support the ongoing economic reform by Sen. Benedict Ayade in Cross River State through increase in the Agricultural productive base, promotion of industrialization, reduction of poverty through employment generation and the diversification of the state’s economy.

The project is conceived as a Public Private Partnership Initiative between the private sector, the state government and the local governments for the establishment of an Integrated Cassava Processing Plant primarily for the production of 3,000,000 Litres of Ethanol and 18,000 Tons of High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) per year. Ethanol is a highly sort after biofuel globally while High Quality Cassava Flour is used in composite flour production for baking in Nigeria.

Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from various plant materials collectively known as “biomass”. It can be made from very common crops such as cassava, sugarcane, potato and corn. The production of biofuels has become a global agenda. Ethanol when mixed with gasoline, oxygenates the fuel and reduce air pollution. In 2011 worldwide ethanol fuel production reached 84.6 billion liters. Demand has continued to grow since then and investing in its production will contribute to meeting this increasing demand for the product globally.

In the Netherlands, in March 2006, the Dutch government set programmatic targets according to which biogenous fuels should make up at least 2 per cent of combined gasoline and diesel sales by 2007, and 5.75 per cent by 2010.

In Germany, the Ministry of Finance proposed a biodiesel blending quota of 4.4 per cent in energy terms or 5 per cent in volume terms starting on 1 January 2007. This corresponds approximately to 1.5 million tonnes of biodiesel.

The United States is already the largest producer of biofuels in the world. The US has set a production target at 132.6 billion litres of ethanol in 2017. Just like the United States, Brazil is also a front runner in the production of biofuels. Brazil used to be the world’s biggest producer and consumer of biofuels until the United States took over its position. Still, Brazil produces around 21 billion litres of ethanol a year of which over 90 per cent is consumed domestically.

On the other hand, High Quality Cassava Flour is simple unfermented cassava flour produced to a very high quality. The demand for High Quality Cassava Flour in Nigeria is high. The driving force behind the demand is the federal government policy on cassava flour inclusion in wheat flour for cassava wheat composite flour production especially for bread and confectionery baking. The annual national demand for High Quality Cassava Flour is estimated at 750,000 tonnes while the national supply estimate is about 50,000 tonnes.

It has been established through research that High Quality Cassava Flour can be added to wheat flour to produce composite flour to be used in baking. In 2011 the National Assembly passed a bill for the inclusion of at least 10 percent cassava flour in bread. The billed has since been signed into law by the executive arm of government. Presently however, the High Quality Cassava Flour industry in Nigeria is dominated by small scale farmers with production capacity of less than 0.1 tons per day thus the need to set up bigger plants.

With such great economic outlook in the sector, there is a need to set up an integrated cassava processing plant in Cross River State. It is estimated that the integrated cassava processing plant will cost about 16 million USD with estimated annual revenue of 14.5 million USD, about 30% Return On Investment (ROI) and a payback period of four years. The plant is expected to be located on a 5 hectares land and the implementation of the project is expected to be completed within 18 months.

The plant will require the continuous supply of about 75, 000 Tons of fresh Cassava tubers from direct production, farmers’ cooperatives, out growers and small holders’ schemes all year round. Imagine what this will mean for cassava farmers in Cross River State. This will generate over 1,000 direct and 4,000 indirect jobs in the rural areas, reduce poverty and create wealth.

Cassava farmers in the state will be provided loans from the Central Bank of Nigeria N220 Billion Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Fund to increase production of cassava to meet the expected demand for raw material by the processing plant.

With this kind of support, many youth in Cross River State will be encouraged to get involved in cassava farming in the state which will boost production, reduce unemployment and contribute to the growth of the state economy.

In an earlier article, I had also suggested that Local Government Councils can get involved in the development of the Agriculture initiative in the state by earmarking at least 50 hectares of land in their domain for the cultivation of Cassava through small holders’ scheme and allocating agreed size of land to each farmer for cultivation. The products from these farms will then be bought over by the processing plant.

It is worthy of note that the expected cassava requirement by the processing plant will be far greater than the present subsistence production level of cassava in the state and will thus require commercial cultivation of cassava which presents great opportunity for job creation by this administration for our teeming youth and women in the state.

The challenges for the establishment of the proposed processing plant will be minimal because the end product which is ethanol a biofuel will be used partly in powering the plant in addition to biogas. The plant will thus be self sustaining in terms of power supply. The new Calabar Deep seaport is also expected to facilitate easy evacuation and export of the end product to Asia, Europe and the Americas.

In Africa, use of cassava for production of biofuel is a bit new, with the first sustainable biofuel plant using cassava feedstock opening in Mozambique in 2012. Nigeria is expected to have the first of such open in 2016 and if Cross River State invests in this, it will be the second in Nigeria and the third in Africa. In the long term, we must however encourage national policy change to support the increase use of biofuels in Nigeria as low carbon energy alternatives and a cleaner development pathway.

Emmanuel Etim is a development consultant based in Nigeria (emmanuel.etim22@gmail.com)

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