The Enugu State chapter of Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA) says the dearth of flour processing machines has hindered efforts to produce cassava flour for bakers.
The state Chairman of NCGA, Mr Romanus Ezeh, made the observation in an interview in Enugu on Friday.
He stressed that the non-availability of flour processing machines had been a major challenge facing the cassava bread programme, which was instituted by the Federal Government in 2006.
Ezeh said that in 2006 the Federal Government initiated the programme for the production of high-quality composite cassava flour for bread making.
He said that the composite flour involved the blending of 20 per cent cassava flour with 80 per cent wheat flour to produce flour for baking bread and other products.
“The non-availability of cassava flour processing plants in the state was the reason behind our failure to meet up with the bakers’ demand for the composite cassava flour,’’ he said.
Also, Ezeh said that many farmers did not go into massive cassava farming last year because of the absence of off-takers and dwindling profits.
“This made the cassava production to fall and whenever there is a drop, the cost of cassava stems will also shoot up,’’ he said.
Ezeh noted that there were more improved cassava stems for planting this year, when compared to the situation last year.
“However, the cassava stems are expensive and difficult to get for the farmers. Before now, the stems were sold at between N500 and N600 per bundle.
“In the current farming season, the price of a bundle of cassava stems has gone up to N1000 and above,’’ he added.
He said that cassava farmers had not received subsidised fertilisers from the government this year, adding that the high cost of fertiliser in the market had frustrated the farmers’ plans to procure adequate quantities of fertiliser.
He, however, noted that cassava farmers were guided by officials of the Ministry of Agriculture on the types of fertiliser that were suitable for crop growing in specific farmlands.
“It is now left for the farmer to make a choice of fertiliser he or she wanted: whether it is organic or inorganic fertilizers,’’ he added.