There are many paradoxes in the Nigerian economy which leave observers baffled. For instance, why is there so much poverty despite an abundance of resources? The country loses about $45m annually by importing starch from other countries to meet the needs of local industries.
Why this is a sad irony is because Nigeria is renowned to be the world’s largest cassava producer, with annual output of over 34 million tons of tuberous roots. And cassava is the most in-demand source of starch owing to its advantages over other close substitutes like maize, wheat, sweet potato and rice. Starch from cassava is easy to extract, has high paste viscosity, high paste clarity, and high freeze-thaw stability which many industries seek to improve the quality of their products.
The demand for cassava starch in Nigeria is in excess of 350,000 tons per annum and local production is less than 20 per cent of the demand. The current price/tonne (2013) of cassava starch ranges between N150, 000 – N180, 000.
The foregoing means that while we have enough cassava output to meet our local needs, we somehow waste/fail to harness the resources, yet we spend hard earned foreign exchange to import starch. If you take the starch import bill as the market size, then you will agree that $45million or N16billion wealth circulating within the country would create thousands of jobs, infrastructure and many other socio-economic activities that would boost the economy and well-being of our people.
Starch is a highly valuable raw material used in the food and non-food industries such as paper, textile, adhesive, beverage, confectionery, pharmaceuticals and building material industries. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), non-food use of starches – such as coating and adhesives – accounts for about 75 percent of the output of the commercial starch industry.
In many industrial applications, there is competition not only among starches from various sources but also between starches and many other products. Resin glue has largely replaced starch in plywood because of its greater resistance to moisture; resin finishes are used in the textile industry and natural gums compete with starches in paper making.
Nevertheless, the continuous development of new products has enabled the starch industry to continue its expansion. The growth of the starch industry in the future remains very promising, providing the quality of products and the development of new products permit them to compete with the various substitutes.
But the food industries are one of the largest consumers of starch and starch products. Large quantities of starch are sold either in the form of products for household cooking or used for food as cooked starch food, custard and other form of food. It is also used as binder, filler, and stabilizer, for bakery products, confectioneries, canned fruits, jams, glucose and others.
The process of starch production from cassava is as simple as making the popular garri and may require the same equipment and process. You will need to peel cassava tubers, grate usually using industrial graters, extract with extracting machine, and then pass it through sedimentation process. The output will still pass through dewatering, granulating, milling and packaging.
The set of machines required and total startup cost could as low as N2million, depending on desired final product. It could be much less depending on the production scale because there are many doing it at the subsistence level in rural areas with less than N100,000.00.
Producing starch from cassava is a win-win situation for many reasons. Cassava starch can be produced from cassava peels which are seen as waste by our farmers. It can also come from other waste in the process of producing food from cassava. With the right advice and technology, entrepreneurs can collect waste product from cassava processing at little or no cost to produce starch and make millions.
Cassava starch production is a very bankable project for entrepreneurs to embark upon, and discerning minds should quickly key into the vision which the government and many international organisations are encouraging as one strategy to eliminate poverty.