Sahel Consulting Convened the Cassava Seed Business Summit 2021 in Collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and other Partners

On Tuesday, May 11th, 2021, Sahel Consulting organized a virtual Cassava Seed Business Summit in collaboration with other partners of the Building an Economically Sustainable and Integrated Cassava Seed System, Phase II (BASICS-II) project. Over ninety-two (92) cassava seed sector stakeholders participated at the summit with the theme “The Critical Roles of Stakeholders in Promoting Access to Quality Cassava Stems”. A key objective of the summit is to provide a platform for key actors in the cassava seed sector to collaborate and share innovative models and solutions that will foster the emergence of an economically viable and sustainable formal cassava seed system. It will also encourage private sector actors to harness the opportunities in the emerging formal seed system for cassava in Nigeria.

The summit officially commenced with a welcome address by Temitope Adegoroye, Partner at Sahel Consulting. In his address, he highlighted the challenges facing the cassava seed system including the low yield of smallholder farmers in Nigeria despite the country accounting for approximately 20% of global cassava production. According to him, there are opportunities in the cassava seed system sub-sector that would catalyze Nigeria’s agricultural transformation. However, these opportunities have not been fully tapped for job creation, income generation, and food security. He further stated that the need for effective collaboration amongst all cassava stakeholders to maximize the potential in the value chain gave birth to the first edition of the Cassava Seed Business Summit. According to him, the summit is envisioned to be a long-standing platform in the cassava seed sector.

Dr. Alfred Dixon, the Director, Partnership & Delivery at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in his opening remarks, welcomed participants to the maiden edition of the Cassava Seed Business Summit. He emphasized the significance of cassava as an engine in the socio-economic growth and development of Africa. In addition, he stated that increasing competitiveness in the cassava value chain will ensure food security, alleviate poverty, and improve the livelihood in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa.

Elder Emmanuel Ijewere, Vice-president of Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), Pastor Segun Adewumi, President of Cassava Growers Association of Nigeria (NCGA), and Mr. Charles Adeniji, President, Industrial Cassava Stakeholders Association of Nigeria (ICSAN) also delivered goodwill messages. They expressed their excitement at the emergence of a platform that serves as a discussion forum for stakeholders in the cassava seed sector. In addition, they underscored the increasing demand for quality cassava stems, and the boundless opportunities that exist within the cassava seed system to engender growth and development in Nigeria.

In his address, Dr. Joseph Onyeka, Director at National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), expressed his delight at the emergence of the Cassava Seed Business Summit at a crucial time. He stated that the summit would assist in mobilizing capital and human resources to ensure timely, adequate, and profitable interventions in the cassava value chain.

Dr. Phillip Ojo, the Director-General of Nigerian Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), closed out by stating that the Cassava Seed Business Summit is timely as it arises at a period where the nation is faced with challenges which a robust cassava seed sector can address.

Following the welcome address and goodwill messages, the first round of presentations by BASICS-II project partners commenced. The presentations highlighted the roles of BASICS-II project partners in establishing a commercially viable seed value chain operating across breeder, foundation, and commercial seed levels. To achieve the objectives of BASICS-II, project partners are promoting the adoption of new improved varieties of cassava as well as an increase in the supply of quality cassava stems by engaging farmers as Foundation Seed Producers (FSP) and Community Seed Entrepreneurs (CSE), and processors under the Processor-Led Model (PLM) of the project. This presents viable business opportunities for private sector actors to invest.

The Tanzanian equivalent of the BASICS-II Project is the Building an Economically Sustainable Seed System for Cassava in Tanzania (BEST) project. According to Mr. Stephen Magige, Country Manager of Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), one of the key lessons learned under the BEST project is the need for integration and coordination of value chain actors. He added that linkage to the output market is also very crucial for a sustainable seed system.

Following the first round of presentations, a panel session tagged “Backward Integration Focusing on Cassava Seed Multiplication – The Perspectives of Industrial Processors” provided an expose on the experiences and challenges of industrial processors. Moderated by Chinedu Agbara, a manager at Sahel Consulting, the panel comprised cassava processing industry leaders and experts namely: Mrs. Yemisi Iranloye, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Psaltry International Limited; Mrs. Nike Tinubu, Executive Director of Eagleson & Nito Concepts Limited and General Manager of Premium Cassava Products Limited (PCPL); Mr. Seyi Oyenuga, Executive Director of ATMANcorp Nigeria Limited and Mr. Tunde Solaja, Managing Director of Crest Agro Products Limited.

According to the panelists, the low supply of quality cassava stems has accounted for the decline in the operating capacity of their factories. As a result of the supply gap and low starch content of available cassava stems, the cost of cassava stems now represents a significant portion of the total processing cost and in some cases during the dry season, it outweighs the selling price of cassava products. In addition, they affirmed that the Semi-Autotrophic Hydroponics (SAH) technology, which they are operating through a partnership with the BASICS-II project, is a valuable investment as it enables them to produce improved varieties of cassava stems at a greater multiplication rate and in a shorter period. In closing, the processors called for an integration of input and service providers into the BASICS-II chain of operation as well as a higher performance by research institutes in introducing new high-quality cassava varieties.

Another round of presentations focused on strengthening and leveraging opportunities in the cassava seed sector followed the panel discussion session. Below are the key highlights from the presentations:

  • Private sector investors who are interested in exploring opportunities in the cassava seed sector can explore four models – Early Generation Seed (EGS) production, Foundation Seed Producer (FSP) model, Community Seed Entrepreneur (CSE) model, and Processor-Led Model (PLM).
  • Early Generation Seed production, which is often characterized as a public good, may not be highly profitable in the early years of start-up.
  • Production of foundation and certified seeds could potentially present investors with a minimum Return on Investment (ROI) of 20%.
  • Processors who are willing to integrate seed production into their business model can explore the use of rapid propagation technologies such as SAH, pencil stems, and green stems.
  • Five (5) new varieties of cassava that are high-yielding with approximately 30 – 40% dry matter content were released in 2020. Of these new varieties, “Game Changer” has desirable processing characteristics because it provides a high starch content and supersedes the commonly known TME419. Other varieties introduced include Baba-70, Obasanjo, Hope, and Poundable which can be boiled like yam.
  • The SeedTracker is the world’s first WebApp for seed value chain integration which promotes quality seed production, seed certification, and market access to help seed producers meet their potential. Cassava seed producers can directly register with the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) on the SeedTracker WebApp.
  • A seed treatment solution known as MandiPlus was introduced by Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) during the summit. MandiPlus can increase the multiplication rate and viability of cassava stems.

In the closing comments by Professor Lateef Sanni, he stated that the BASICS-II project will increase promotional campaigns to engage private sector actors in cassava seed production. The summit was officially closed by Dr. Alfred Dixon who encouraged all stakeholders to work cohesively to tap into the emerging opportunities in the formal seed system in Africa.

The summit can be accessed here.

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