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‘Why price of garri keeps rising’

Donatus Imaghodor is the Edo State Chairman of the Cassava Growers Association. In this interview with the Daily Trust on Sunday, he spoke on challenges…

Donatus Imaghodor is the Edo State Chairman of the Cassava Growers Association. In this interview with the Daily Trust on Sunday, he spoke on challenges facing cassava farming and how the government can improve production to meet local consumption through mechanisation, among other issues.


As at today, what are the challenges facing cassava farmers?

The challenges are not just facing only cassava farmers in Edo but the entire cassava farmers in Nigeria. The interventions that happened in rice farming and other crops did not take place in cassava. The land in Edo State is different because it grows faster and there is a need to have strong intervention; and apart from funding, you talk of the access road, among others. A lot of things need to be done by opening up the land and mechanisation has not taken place in the area of cassava. We are still leaving cassava farming in the hands of the smallholder farmers, and even when the government says anything about intervention, they are talking about the smallholders’ farmers and you can’t get the intervention but the smallholders’ farmers are doing It for consumption and not a commercial purpose. When you look at it, the intervention that happened in rice farming is not happening in cassava farming and lots of mechanisation has happened in the rice sector, where people have to open up large sizes of land and mechanise it but that is not also happening in cassava farming. This is one of the major challenges we are facing and if we are to break through in this aspect, both the federal and the state governments should go beyond funding the small holders’ farmers. Everybody will tell you they want to assist smallholder farmers but these smallholder farmers are not helping out and it would help if we just farm to sustain the domestic consumption. If we want the farming that will sustain the nation, we have to go into commercial purposes and there should be intervention in large-scale cassava farming where we have to mechanize farming. Hardly you can see an individual doing 500 hectares of cassava farming because it is not mechanised but you can get mechanisation in rice farming. The only company in large-scale cassava farming in Edo State is in Orhionwon Local Government of Edo State. It is not doing it for local consumption but for companies that are into cassava-based products. The funding should go beyond assistance, or stipend that will not take farmers anywhere. We have to bring the small cassava farmers into a real cluster that can cultivate about 50 hectares and that will solve the hike in cassava products.

What is responsible for the continued rise in the price of garri, which used to be the cheapest food in Nigeria?

Two things are responsible for the sudden rise in the price of garri, one is the economic downturn, and second, a lot of farms in Edo State were engulfed in fire, and the few ones available are not enough to take care of the people. Also, the increase in the cost of labour. Labour has extremely gone up and before you can get labourers to work on your farm or uproot cassava, it is very difficult. This is actually what happened in the system that caused the rise in the price of garri. The transportation cost from the farm to where to process the cassava is another factor. There are no access roads to carry the goods and sometimes the farmer has to pay okada (commercial motorcyclist) to carry the cassava from the farm to the major road where he can get a vehicle to convey them to the processing point. So, these are the factors that are responsible for the high cost of garri in the market.

How will you describe the market for garri in Edo?

There is a heavy market for garri in Edo State. It is what every home eats, and if you take statistics of what we need in Edo, you will discover we need about a million tons of garri to feed Edo residents, but we have not been able to produce 50,000 tons. The market is there and don’t forget that Edo State is a hub where everybody comes to buy garri. Both South-South and South-East states come to Edo State to buy garri, so there is a huge market in Edo State. The government can make Edo a cassava hub.

How can a new farmer venture into cassava farming and be successful?

I think there is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to go into cassava farming and if many people go into it, we can meet domestic consumption and industrial use. But the challenge for anyone who wants to go into farming is how to get the land and he or she should think beyond manual farming and embrace professional ways of farming cassava. So, a farmer who wants to go into cassava should think of mechanisation, where they will use tractors to clear, prepare the land, plant and harvest. For anyone who can go into cassava farming mechanically, the sky is the limit.

How about inputs? How are cassava farmers benefiting from inputs such as cassava stem, chemicals from governments, etc?

Yes, but it is only that of fertilisers I can’t say. When you talk about inputs such as chemical herbicides and the stems, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture does provide that though it is not always enough. But with the meeting, we have with the state Ministry of Agriculture and ADP, they are developing a system whereby they can get the inputs across the board that will be sufficient for every farmer and will go round in the state. By that, they are thinking of the methods to use so that it can go around for every farmer.

Some farmers are advocating for commodity boards, what is your view on this?

We have suggested that a commodity board should be established for farmers and it will go a long way to help. The government can set up a commodity development committee and make sure that it is not political by appointing people who are core farmers as the head of the board because that is the only way it can be effective. It is not that the government is not intervening but I see those interventions as not properly funded. It can only be well funded if we have a cassava board just like we had the cocoa board in those days. They were effective because the intervention was going to the right farmers. But these days, if the government says we have intervention for cassava farmers, even cocoa farmers will go for it and at the end of the day, it will not get the desired effect. If funds are available and the government channel it through the chairmen of various farmers associations, it will reach the right farmers because they know all their members.

What does it cost to cultivate one hectare of cassava farm?

To cultivate a hectare of cassava farm, it depends on what you want because the prices of things such as chemicals, stem and other inputs have gone up, it takes not less than N500,000 whether you are going to mechanise it or not. With the cost going up now, including cassava stem, before it was around N800 per bundle but now, it is around N2000 per bundle, you can see the increase.

What is your advice to the government?

The government should come up with proper funding and not interventions that will not reach the farmers.  If there is proper funding and the government makes land available for the real farmers in clusters, we will go far. The government should encourage those in the private sector who want to go into cassava farming on a large scale with the availability of land, tractors and implements to plough and prepare the land.

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