Invest in Cassava Inputs and Processing in Liberia

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), cassava is the third most important source of calories in the tropics, after rice and corn. In Liberia, Cassava is the second most important food crop. It is grown throughout the country, although the area covered may vary considerably for different counties.

Liberia provides a strong basis for investors in cassava value addition such as gari, cassava flour, high-quality cassava starches, and adhesives. Under its Liberia Agricultural Transformation Agenda (LATA), Liberia has identified agro-processing zone across the country to promote easy access of the farm product to market along the valued chain, linking to the national highway that links the primary cassava growing areas to local, regional and global markets.

The intrinsic characteristics of cassava that make it interesting as a commodity and as a major economic driver can be expressed as follows: it has greater clarity and viscosity than other comparable starches; it remains very stable in acidic food products and; it has excellent properties for use in animal feed, non-food products, such as pharmaceuticals and others.

In addition to contributing to food security, the promotion of Liberia’s cassava sector can lead to a significant boost in the following areas: agro-food industry (cassava fl our, chips, etc), non-food industry (glue, starch, etc.), poultry & livestock industries (chicken feed, pig feed, etc). It can also contribute significantly to the empowerment of women and youth, who make up the majority of smallholder producers and carry out over 80 percent of trading activities in the rural areas.

There is a large market opportunity

Globally, over 7 billion metric tons of cassava-based products are traded per year internationally for an estimated value of over 1 billion US dollars. More than 500 million farmers, countless processors, and traders around the world live in the cassava industry. Additionally, Cassava can be processed into an array of over 150 products within the following categories: animal feed, starch, noodles, fl our, sweeteners, organic acids and ethanol.

In addition, cassava leaves are an important vegetable, although harvesting of leaves adversely affects tuber yield (this effect is reduced during the raining season). Crop area is around 0. 5 ha and yields are estimated to be between 6 to 10mt/ha on upland farms. Cassava is grown on flat land and is usually intercropped with maize and sometimes sweet potatoes and peppers. Over 80 million tons of cassava is consumed every year in ECOWAS. This market is growing by 4% every year. Of this Liberia accounted for 520,000 tons. The average Liberian consumes 121 kg per year —meaning that there is scope for the market to expand in size by five times: Ghanaians and Sierra Leoneans consume 600 kg per year.

Investment opportunities in Cassava

As per a study done by the National Cassava Sector Coordination Committee of Liberia revealed that:

Fresh cassava:

waxed, root peeled, dried, instant boiled, and vacuum-packed cassava. The development of driver priority would be to promote food security and food import substitution. The destination markets include village markets, city markets, supermarkets, millers, and processors.

Processed cassava:

this segment includes basic processed products such as gari, fufu, baby food, cassava bread, snacks, biscuits, etc. Targeting this segment will promote increased employment, food import substitution, and food security in both rural and urban areas. Markets identified include village and city markets, but also regional and international markets (EU, USA & Asia).

Animal feed:

the second most important utilization of cassava worldwide is animal feed. At present, about a quarter of the global production of cassava is utilized as a feed ingredient for pork, poultry, cattle, and fish farming, directly or indirectly through its incorporation into compound feeds. Within the EU, the largest markets for cassava in terms of feed are the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Germany, and Portugal.

High-quality cassava flour (HQCF):

mixed flour for bakeries in Liberia and the sub-region is another market opportunity for stakeholders of the sector and for an effective substitution of imported wheat flour.

Biofuel market:

viewed from a middle and long term perspective, the biofuel industry could also be a viable market segment.

Where to grow or source your cassava and for value addition and processing

Annual cassava production in Liberia is 520,000 tons, over 65,000 hectares across the country.

Cassava is grown on flat land and is usually intercropped with maize and sometimes sweet potatoes and peppers. In addition to the improvement of local varieties widely used by producers, the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) has a long-running program that focuses on developing high yielding, disease-resistant cassava varieties. CARCASS I, CARCASS II, and CARCASS III are examples of those varieties developed and already released and diffused.

Typical yields are estimated to be between 6 and 10 mt/ha on upland farms. Inputs suppliers import crop seeds, agrochemicals, and equipment for domestic sales to farmers in Monrovia and urban centers throughout the country.

Only 17% of input dealers sell cassava planting materials while fertilizer use by farmers is limited, giving a large market for expansion in input providers. The counties with land most suitable for cassava production are Bong, Lofa, Nimba, Grand Bassa, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru and Maryland. Lofa, Bong, Grand Cape Mount, and Grand Bassa have existing warehouse structures that are available for leasing or buying.