Cultivation of cassava is certainly among the most profitable agricultural business today, as it has the potential of generating enormous profits to the farmer.
Cassava is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tube-like root, a major source of carbohydrates. With time Cassava has been transformed from being a “poor man’s” crop used to produce Garri (local staple food widely consumed in Africa) to a lucrative and an industrial crop, as it is now processed into products such as starch, flour, glucose and ethanol for bio-fuels, etc. This transition adds to an increase in demand for this crop.
The increase in Niger and Africa’s population over the years has also made the demand for cassava and its product to rise, a development that has led to higher income for farmers. The fact that it is a profitable venture does not mean that it is Eldorado from day one, starting a Cassava farming business like any other business, comes with its own challenges. An aspiring investor can either choose to start a cassava farm on a small scale or on a large scale depending on their financial status. Cassava farming is one of the easiest agribusiness an entrepreneur can invest in because it only involves the planting of the stems in the soil, whether you make ridges or not and depending on the breed or species between eight and nine months you are already harvesting.
In this business the whole process of planting Cassava to harvesting and maybe up to processing (if need be) takes some time to materialize, so you must be prepared to exhibit the virtues of “patience, perseverance and persistence”. Cassava business needs a lot of organization, shrewd management of resources and doing the right things at the right time.
One thing is certain when it comes to commercial cassava farming, you don’t have to struggle to sell your cassava because there are always outlets out there ready to buy from you. Outlets like –
- Food processing companies
- Laundry starch production companies
- Biofuel production companies
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Food vendors and Consumers
You may also consider starting a complimentary business – like cassava processing plant; to produce and package laundry starch, animal feed or any other product that can be obtained from cassava.
Tips on how to Start a Cassava Farm Business
1. Feasibility study and Business Plan
Carry out a feasibility study to help you ascertain the viability of cassava farming after which you write a business plan. A business plan is the road map to bring about the realization of your business idea of establishing a cassava farm business.
business plan will help prospective cassava farmers to understand the cost estimates
in order to ensure good returns on investment. It will factor in the cost of land
Hire (or purchase for large scale venture) and the following:
- land clearing/preparation,
- cassava stem cuttings,
- carriage bags,
- farm maintenance
- Harvesting etc.
2. Farm Site Selection
Cassava cultivation require the following condition for good yield:
- The right soil type for the breed of cassava you want to plant
- The topography of the landscape
- Good soil texture
- Thick vegetation within and around the proposed land
- Soil should not be prone to pest invasion
- Adequate rainfall and sunshine in the area
Cassava grows best in land with thick vegetation around it, good soil texture, flat or gently sloping. Look for an area with deep well drained loamy soil, adequate rainfall and boasts of warm and moist climatic conditions. However, should the soil need improvement, you would fertilize the soil by adding manure, prepare good seed beds and sometimes plant the cassava along with other crops.
- Breed/Variety of Cassava stems to plant
When selecting the breed/variety of Cassava to be cultivated or planted, the following properties should be considered; the suitable breed/variety of Cassava should:
- Be bulk early
- have good ground storability
- be pest and disease – tolerant
- be weed tolerant
- have decent food quality
- be good for cooking.
Cassava stem cuttings is available from agricultural research institutes or their authorized agents.
4. Clearing the site for Cassava farming
The farmland and its surrounding should be cleared, the resulting refuse burnt to prepare the soil for liming and ploughing. A total herbicide should be applied 10 days before land preparation, this will help in controlling the weed and it is quicker and more economical compared to using manual labour.
5. Preparing the Soil for Cultivation
The soil should be limed and manure added for optimum plant growth and fruiting. Mechanical ploughing with a tractor and if possible, ridging should be carried out prior to planting. Expert recommend planting cassava on ridges for optimum yield.
6. Planting the Cassava Stem Cuttings
Experts recommend that the selected stem cuttings should be planted the right way by ensuring that the land was appropriately tilled. Planting can be carried out between April and late September. Cassava stems are used for planting which can be obtained from research institutes or their agents. Stem cuttings, 20-25 cm long should be planted at a spacing of 1 m x 1 m. For optimum harvest and maximum utilization of land resource, endeavor to replace dead or nonviable stems with new ones. Mechanical planter can be utilized for planting in large farms
7. Post planting maintenance
Where a total (pre and post emergence) herbicide was not used before land preparation, you can use a selective pre-emergence herbicide that should be applied within three days after planting. Replanting of cassava stem that fail to germinate within four weeks. Also weed the grass that grow with the cassava stem using manual labour.
Once the cassava plant leaves turn yellow and starts falling off from the stem then the cassava is ripe for harvesting. Cut off the stems of the plant and prepare them either for sale or for planting in the next season. The roots are dug out for sale or for further processing. On a large scale the harvesting can be done mechanically with a harvester.
9. Processing the harvested Cassava
The following can be processed from cassava roots.
- Cassava Flour
For those with substantial capital the following equipment will be needed: Tractor or hand tractor, planter, spryer and harvester
The planting season, type of seed bed, preparation method, handling and planting of the stem cuttings should be done with precision for good returns on investment and to avoid serious problems.