Cassava is a major staple crop in Nigeria, as cassava itself and its product are found in the daily meals of Nigerians. Expansion of Cassava production is attributed to the discovery of cassava as a cheap source of edible carbohydrate that could be processed into different forms of human delicacies and animal feeds. Cassava could be source of raw materials for a number of industrial products example include, the starch, flour and ethanol. Due to the comparative advantage of cassava that could be grown in commercial quantity in most Agroecologies in Nigeria, the potential is enormous for exploitation.
Cassava is a tuberous root that contains 60 to 70 percent moisture and has a shelf life of 2 to 3 days. Once harvested, it has to be either consumed immediately or processed into more stable product forms. Cassava farmers are often unable to process harvested roots and have to sell their crop at a very low price to middlemen who are willing and able to reach them. However, with the help of several research and development over the years, the crop can be processed into several secondary products of industrial market value.
These products include:
· Cassava chips,
· Cassava pellets,
· Cassava flour,
· Cassava adhesives,
· Alcohol, and starch
Garri is dry, crispy, creamy-white and granular. It is estimated that 70% of the cassava produced in Nigeria is processed into gari. As a result, gari is the most commonly traded cassava product. The gari prices, therefore, are a reliable indication of the demand and supply of cassava. Other relevant processed cassava foods in the traditional (food) market include fufu, lafun and abacha. Traditional methods of processing cassava roots can result in poor quality products that contain unacceptable levels of cyanide, as well as being contaminated by foreign matter and disease-causing agents. If people eat these kinds of products, they can suffer from acute cyanide poisoning, goiter, and a nerve-damaging disorder that makes them unsteady and unable to walk properly.
Proper processing converts fresh cassava roots into safer and more marketable products by:
• Reducing cyanide levels in the processed products
• Prolonging shelf life
• Reducing post-harvest losses of fresh cassava roots
• Avoiding contamination of the products and the environment
In Nigeria, mechanized cassava processing is still on the developmental stage and the potential is very high.