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Cassava is a tropical, shrubby, perennial plant with an edible root, serving as a major source of carbohydrate in human diet. Cassava originated from tropical America and was first introduced into Africa in the Congo basin by the Portuguese around 1558. Cassava has been cultivated for centuries in the Americas, initially for human consumption and more recently cultivated for the production of dry chips (used as animal feed), ethanol and starch. With cassava viewed as a food security crop and therefore poorly commercialized, the changes along the Cassava Value Chain have been minimal. However, since the advent of cassava usage in production and processing of animal feed, Asia and Latin America have witnessed rapid changes in the value chain system. Other contributing factors include new government policies promoting the use of cassava based products, improvements in cassava processing technology and the emerging importance of cassava as an effective industrial raw material for starch, animal feed and ethanol industries.


Importance of Cassava

Africa depends much on root and tuber crops more than all continents in feeding its population. It is processed into several forms such as Gari (for making eba a popular food in Nigeria), Fufu, Tapioka.  The cassava plant gives the third highest yield of carbohydrates per cultivated area among crop plants, after for sugarcane and sugar beets[1]. Cassava plays a particularly important role in agriculture in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, because it does well on poor soils and with low rainfall, and because it is a perennial that can be harvested as required. Its wide harvesting window allows it to act as a famine reserve and is invaluable in managing labor schedules. It offers flexibility to resource-poor farmers because it serves as either subsistence or a cash crop[2].

Cassava starch is used in making products such as biscuits, bread and derivatives such as sagos and sauce. Cassava starch has also been industrially modified to provide products with physical and chemical properties for specific applications, including the preparation of jelly, thickening agents, gravies, custard powders, baby food, glucose and confectioneries (Ene, 1992)[3].

Recent developmental researches confirm the use of cassava as an ethanol biofuel feedstock. As a result, cassava (tapioca) chips have gradually become a major source for ethanol production.[4]

Cassava is used worldwide for animal feed. Cassava hay contains high protein (20–27% crude protein) and condensed tannins (1.5–4% CP). It is used as a good roughage source for dairy or beef cattle, buffalo, goats, and sheep by either direct feeding or as a protein source in the concentrate mixtures.[5]




Depending on soil type and drainage, the field may be prepared as mounds, ridges, flat-tilled, or zero-tilled. Where mechanization is available, the land is ploughed and harrow to a depth of 25cm. However, planting on flat soil, requires cuttings directly into the land.

Healthy, fresh stem cuttings from mature plants are best for planting. Cassava stem cuttings (or stakes) are vulnerable to adverse climatic conditions, pests, and diseases. If exposed to sunlight, cuttings dry and lose viability. Excessive moisture causes sprouting or rotting. (To read on pre-planting operation for cassava follow this link )

Slow initial development of sprouts makes cassava susceptible to weed competition in the first 3-4 months. Regular weeding is required till the crops are able to form canopy and reduce weed infestation.

Cassava has ability to grow on poor soils majorly because it has an extensive root system and uses plant nutrients which are not easily accessible to other crops. In traditional farming, without fertilizers, farmers can obtain yields of 5-6 t/ha on soils that would not support other crops.

However, for good growth and yields, cassava requires friable, light textured and well-drained soils containing sufficient moisture and a balanced amount of plant nutrients. Under such conditions, yields of 40-60 t/ha are possible[6].




Disease such as Cassava mosaic disease, Cassava bacteria blight, Anthracnose, brown leaf spot and rot root are known to affect the crop production. The cassava mealybug (Phenacoccus manihoti) and cassava green mite (Mononychellus tanajoa) can cause up to 80% crop loss, which is extremely detrimental to the production of subsistence farmers.

Pest of cassava include: Termite, Cassava mealybug, cassava green mite, grass cutter. A wide range of plant parasitic nematodes have been reported associated with cassava worldwide. These include Pratylenchus brachyurus., Rotylenchulus reniformis, Helicotylenchus spp. and Meloidogyne spp., of which Meloidogyne incognita and Meloidogyne javanica are the most widely reported and economically important.[7]

Currently the use of tolerant and resistant varieties is the most practical and sustainable management method for these pests and diseases.




Harvest should be done as soon as tuberous roots have accumulated sufficient amount of starch, but not too late, when tuberous roots become woody or fibrous. Depending on the varieties, it could be harvested at 7 or 12 months after planting. Most cassava varieties attain optimum weight about 18 months after planting when starch accumulation is highest.[8] Optimum time for harvesting cassava varies according to time of planting variety, climatic and soil factors market conditions.

Manual harvesting involves cutting the stems a few centimeters above the ground, and then loosens the soil around the tuberous roots, and pulls the stub of the stem to lift out the root.

Mechanical harvesters are available to uproot tuberous roots, which are then picked by hand.

Harvesting is easier when the soil is moist or when planting is on ridges rather than on flat ground.




Nigeria produces more than 45 million metric tons (MT) of cassava, making it the world’s largest producer. In spite of this volume the full yield potential has not been realized since smallholder production rarely exceeds 11 MT per hectare. Less than one percent of total cassava production is processed commercially primarily due to the high cost of transport and a lack of adequate agro processing capacity.






The production of cassava is concentrated in the hands of numerous smallholder farmers located primarily in the south and central regions of Nigeria. A significant population of cassava growers in Nigeria has made the transition from traditional production systems to the use of high-yielding varieties and mechanization of processing activities (Nweke et al, 2002)[9].






Cassava-growing regions in Nigeria, 2004

Source: IITA-Integrated Cassava Project (ICP).

Current Status[10]

Nigerian cassava production is by far the largest in the world; a third more than production in Brazil and almost double the production of Indonesia and Thailand. Cassava production in other African countries, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda appears small in comparison to Nigeria’s substantial output


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome (FAO, 2004a) estimated 2002 cassava production in Nigeria to be approximately 34 million tonnes. Expansion of cassava production has been relatively steady since 1980 with an additional push between the years 1988 to 1992 owing to the release of improved IITA varieties.


Economic potential of Cassava production

The government of Nigeria introduced policies to encourage the substitution of high quality cassava flour for wheat flour in bread baking from March 2012, starting with 10 percent cassava flour inclusion with a steady increase to 40 percent by 2015. The belief that a growing demand for cassava will spur rural industrial development and contribute to the economic development of producing, processing and trading communities, is the basis for the 40% cassava flour inclusion in bread.

Successful implementation of the policy on inclusion of cassava flour in bread will result in a 40% reduction in Nigeria’s wheat imports by 2015, conserve foreign exchange earnings and increase employment; wheat imports are currently estimated at N635 billion (about $4.2bn).


Presently, cassava is primarily produced for food especially in the form of gari, lafun and fufu with little or no use in the agribusiness sector as an industrial raw material. However, the crop can be processed into several secondary products of industrial market value. These products include chips, pellets, flour, adhesives, alcohol, and starch, which are vital raw materials in the livestock feed, alcohol/ethanol, textile, confectionery, wood, food and soft drinks industries. Moreover, these products are tradable in the international market.


 Estimate of Potential/Demand for Cassava (tons) in Nigeria



demand for cassava


Global trade in Cassava[11]

International trade in aggregate dry cassava products (also called tapioca) is currently estimated at 8.4 million metric tonnes (MT), with Thailand and Indonesia as the major cassava exporters, exporting mainly cassava chips, cassava pellets, cassava starch, and flour. The amount of cassava products exported from Africa is negligible despite Nigeria being the largest cassava producer. Africa and Latin America export only on average 400,000T, with Nigeria hardly featuring in this global trade and its first batch of cassava chips exported to China in 2005 was at a loss.    

In recent times however, new cassava market opportunities have developed, especially in Asia, with cassava products used as functional intermediate products, especially cassava starch.

However, Thailand continues to be the principal cassava supplier, with over 80% market share. International trade in cassava is a rapidly growing industry. Trade volumes between 1995 and 2005 have increased by about 36%. A conservative projection of the cassava trade for the year 2015 at a 40% growth rate is 11.76 million MT.


For details on cassava processing into floor, chips,starch etc. click here


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[1]  Nutrition per Hectare for Staple Crops,

[2] ^ Stone, G. D. (2002). &-8220;Both Sides Now&-8221;. Current Anthropology 43 (4): 611–630.doi:10.1086/341532

[3] Ene, L.S.O. (1992). Prospects for Processing and Utilization of Root and Tuber Crops. In National Root Crops Promotion of Root Crop-Based Industries.Pp. 7-11.

[4]  Stuart&-8217;s Brasil: Aipim, Mandioca, Manioc, Pão-de-pobre, Cassava(Manihot esculenta)


[6] Curtsey: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

[7] Mc Sorley, R., Ohair, S. K. and Parrado, J.L. 1983. Nematodes of Cassava. Manihot esculentaCrantz. Nematropica 13:261-287

[8] Curtsey: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

[9] Nweke, F.I. D.S.C., Spender and J.Lynam (2002)The Cassava Transformation: Africa’s Best Kept Secret. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, Michigan, U.S.A.

[10] Culled from Corporate Document Repository (A Cassava Industrial Revolution in Nigeria)

[11] Courtsey “Cassava Master Plan: A strategic Action Plan for the development of the Nigerian Cassava Industry”. Kormawa, P. and M.O. Akoroda (2003). Cassava Supply Chain Arrangement for Industrial Utilization in Nigeria.






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