NIGERIA – The Federal Government of Nigeria is considering levies on imported starch sweeteners, flour and ethanol to encourage local production and reduce its food import bill on those products estimated at US$654 million.

The government also aims to enhance cassava processing, the raw material for the products while attracting investments in that area.

Although Nigeria is considered the world largest producer of cassava, the Guardian Nigeria reported it still imports most of its industrial starch, a by-product of cassava.

Once the policy is implemented, the government seeks to save about US$700 million spend on the products by increasing cassava starch production to 1.4 million tonnes yearly by 2022.

The country has an annual output of over 34 million tonnes of tuberous roots, with cassava production seeing an upward trend over the past decade driven by rapid population growth, large internal market demand, complemented by the availability of high yielding improved varieties, according to FAO.

With a processing capacity at about 35%, industries that depend on cassava by-products may be forced to turn to local production since the government looks to imposing levies of up to 60% on importation.

Nigeria imports 96% of starch as local demand of 600,000 tonnes could not be met, while 200,00 tonnes or 100 per cent of sweeteners used in the country are currently being imported.

Welcoming the drive by the government, President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr. Frank Jacobs also noted that caution should be taken while implementing and executing the policies.

“Whatever we can derive from the country, we should work towards it.

We have plenty of cassava. However, if we begin to use cassava for industrial use, it might put pressure on the demand for cassava.

Cassava is a staple food for us in this country and raw materials for other products,” said Dr. Frank.