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How to Start a Cassava Farming and Processing Business in Nigeria [A Comprehensive Guide] | Next Nigerian Entrepreneur
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Cassava Processing Opportunities – SuccessDigest looks at the Agric sector focusing on the ever inherent opportunities in cassava – a crop which Nigeria produces more than any other country in the world.  But why is our cassava primarily produced for food, especially in the form of garri, lafun, and fufu with little or no use in the agribusiness sector as an industrial raw material? 

How can our cassava be processed into several secondary products of industrial market value [tradable in the international market] such as chips, pellets, flour, adhesives, alcohol, and starch,  which are vital raw materials in the livestock, feed, alcohol/ethanol, textile, confectionery,  wood,  food, and soft drinks industries? How and where are the equipment to do all these? We knew that answers to these questions would bring out the cassava opportunity for the discerning entrepreneur. So, we sought out who could answer them – Sir Bruno Orji, CEO, Brunus Enterprises Nigeria Ltd/owner Of Cassavamillers. 

What Do You Do? 

Orji says,  “We run a website that is exclusively related to cassava and its derivatives – I mean all the value chains of cassava. With this, people send enquiries to our website  and  there  is  a  notable  number  of enquiries on garri, bothering on finding equipment for garri processing. Our equipment produces two metric tons of it per day. People have interest in starch and we can produce two metric tons of it per day. Cassava chips are also in the list and our chips are in 25 metric tons per day. Most of the people want the chips for export and garri for the local market, but I usually advise them to take another look at chips. 

Effect of storage methods of cassava planting materials on establishment and early growth vigour – IJAAR | International Network for Natural Sciences

The Chinese will offer them like $120 or $130 per metric ton, but if a Nigerian exports cassava chips at $400 per metric ton, he is losing money because one metric ton of cassava tuber in Nigeria is N20,000 and it takes four metric tons of cassava tubers to make one metric ton of cassava chips. This costs N80,000, which is more than $400. So, the panacea to this is mechanised commercial cassava farming with a view to applying the economies of scale to produce cassava at lesser cost per unit. If they can produce to cost N8,000 per metric ton, they will now be competing alongside Thailand and Vietnam”. 

Opportunities In The Processing Sector Of Agriculture In Nigeria 

Orji says,  “The opportunities  are  very extensive. Currently, we have about 4.5 million peasant farmers, farming about 8.85 hectares of land in Nigeria and in return producing about 46 million metric tons of cassava tubers. 70 percent of these are consumed locally as eba, fufu and other food; only 30 percent is available for raw materials. So, processing is very important. If we want to participate   in   the   global cassava business, we must improve our output from 46 million to 91 million metric tons so that we can produce at a lesser cost per unit, say around  N8,000  per  metric ton, so as to compete with Thialand   and   Vietnam. China needs about a million metric tons of cassava chips from Nigeria. 

“ Ni g e r i a   i s   c u r r e n t spending  N635  billion  per year on the importation of wheat, now we  want  to reduce that amount of m oney through the introduction and addition of cassava flour into our bread. That hasn’t happened, because we don’t have enough and the flourmillers are still fighting  that,  as  they  are  just  adding  three percent,  while  government  is  expecting  20 percent. So, if we can do that, we can still make money  importing  wheat  and  more  money growing cassava. 

“Presently, government has pumped in N10 billion to the cassava sector so as to enable them grow more cassava; and to grow more cassava, we need more equipment fabricated locally, so as to process them. The ones you get from China are not too good because they are not tropicalised and most of them are done with mild metal, but the ones we do here are made from stainless steel, which does not corrode  when  it  comes  in  contact  with hydrophobic acid”. 

List Of Mechanized Equipment For Cassava Processing/Storage 

Orji says, “Well, we don’t deal much on storage; we  deal more on processing. To process cassava, you need a cassava grater, after grating, you pack the cassava mash in a sack; put it in a mechanised presser, where you  press  out  the  hydrocyanic  acid. After pressing out the hydrocyanic acid, then you put it in the fermentation rack, where it stays for about two days so as to remove all the cyanide – the cyanide must be removed to less than 10 percent, because if it is more than 10 percent, it might cause goitre for consumers if taken consistently. So, after the fermentation, you might take it back to the granulator or grater – this is to disintegrate the cake form before taking it to the frying pot. In the frying pot, it is fried to less than 10 percent moisture content so as to reduce the chances of getting reduced quality after two weeks. 


“Meanwhile, before the cassava goes to the grater, we insist on mechanized peelers and washing; if not mechanized washing, you can wash manually before going to the grater. This is solely because our garri is not at times accepted  internationally  due  to  high  sand content. But when it is mechanically peeled and washed, the sand is reduced. Now to drying, it is very important and we have mechanized dryer which uses propeller. 

“The new  Mechanical Processing Equipment comprises of: the Hammer Mill, the   Fermentation Rack, the   Hydraulic Dewatering   Press, the Granulator  and  the  garri Roasting or Frying Pot which is a new innovation in garri processing”. 



Orji says, “Garri processing starts with the peeling of the cassava where most of the cyanide resides.  The  skin  of  the cassava is made up of the outer thin papery layer and the leathery tough inner layer. 

“Peeling  can  be  done  mechanically  or manually. Mechanical peelers peel as much as 2,400-2,500kg per hour with a wastage rate of 30-40  percent  while  manual peeling accomplishes 22kg per man-hour and wastage of 20-25 percent. Mechanical peelers are problematic because of the non uniform nature of the cassava roots and the irregularity in size which make smooth peeling difficulty. Also, the thickness of the skin, the texture and the strength of adhesion to the flesh of the tuber differs from specie to specie thereby making over-peeling and under-peeling possible.  As  a  result  of  these  problems, processors prefer manual peeling for now till the mechanical aspect is perfected”. 



Orji says, “After the manual peeling, the tubers  are  sliced  and  then  taken  to  the washing  tanks  where  they  are  thoroughly washed to remove all traces of sand. It is recommended  that  the  tubers  be  washed before  and  after  peeling  to  ensure  the elimination of all traces of sand. 

“The washed tubers are taken by trolley to the  Hammer  Mill  where  they  are  grated. Proper grating disintegrates the root cells of the cassava tubers and releases enzymes to act on its substrate, thus initiating the process of fermentation and detoxification. 

“The Hammer Mill is made of stainless steel and equipped with 15 hp electric motor and has a capacity of 1 ton/hr. It is rugged and resilient and can withstand protracted operation. 

“The  grated  mash  is  emptied  into  the porous polypropylene bags at the rate of 25 kg per bag, tied by hand and taken by the trolley to the fermentation racks”. 



Orji says, “The bags are stacked in racks and depressed with hydraulic weight for three to five days to enable the liquour to drain out while fermentation takes place. Food scientists and garri experts have found that the sack-pressed method is the fastest and the best of the fermentation methods. Continuous pressure on the mash hastens detoxification more than when it is simply left in  its  liquour  such  as  in  a  non-draining situation. Continuous pressure also lowers the residual hydrocyanic acid content. Fermentation of cassava for garri is best at 350c and does not occur in water; the natural liquour  in  cassava  provides  the  needed moisture. 

“The essence of fermenting the mash is to get rid of the hydrocyanic acid (HCN) which is natural  in  cassava  tubers.  The  acid is poisonous if taken in unusual doses and can cause goiter, nervous breakdown and other health complications. 

“The expected HCN content of cassava ranges from 16- 40 milligrams of HCN per 100gm and varies with varieties, environment and age. 

“According to the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), the maximum HCN allowed in gari is 20 parts per million (PPM). During fermentation process, acetic and lactic acids are produced and natural drainage of fermented liquor caries with it much of the hydrocyanic acid. The pH of properly fermented cassava mash in garri production is between 4.0 and 4.2. 

“Fermentation  is the  heart  of garri processing because it is where the poisonous acid (HCN) is detoxified and removed to make the garri edible”. 


Orji says, “The fermented mash in bags are stacked  in  the  Hydraulic  Jack  Press  and pressed  mechanically  to  squeeze  out  the remaining fermented liquour. After about ten minutes of pressing, the bags are repacked and pressed for another thirty minutes and then removed and taken to the Granulator to be broken up into smaller pieces”. 


Orji says, “Granulating is breaking up the dewatered mash into small lumps to facilitate roasting or frying. The Granulator is made of stainless steel and powered with a 7.5 hp motor; the capacity is 1 ton/hr. 

“The granulating mash is emptied into a trolley and taken to the gari Roasting Pot. If the lumps are still big after granulating, they can be further milled in the hammer mill before roasting”. 

Roasting or Frying: 

Orji says, “The mash is emptied into the roasting  pot  which  is  a  round  roasting equipment  of  about  5ft  in  diameter  with rotating flexible paddles or rakes for tuning the roasting mash to prevent sticking and charring. It is made of stainless steel with 2hp gear motor. It stands at about 3.5ft high and is fired with charcoal, firewood, gas, etc. It is well ventilated with exhaust pipes and insulated with fiberglass. 


 “The mash is first roasted or fried at about 150oC  for  about  40  minutes  and  then  for another 20 minutes at a reduced temperature to allow air to blow over it so as to reduce the moisture content to about 9-10 percent. 

“After frying, the garri can be further milled in  the  Hammer  Mill  to  further  reduce  the particular  size  so  as  to  vary  the  product profiles.  Small,  medium  and  large  particle sizes can be produced to meet the needs of different segments of the market. 

“The Roasting Pot is a new innovation in garri making because it reduces the drudgery, the burden and the stress in garri frying. Garri can now be fried with less stress, more output and in a shorter time”. 


Orji says, “The Garri is discharged from the duct in the garri Roaster and packaged in 5, 10 and 25kg bags stitched and stored in the storage area from where they are supplied to customers”. 

Quality Of Garri Producible With The Equipment 

Orji says, “It will have a moisture content of 9-10  percent.  This  means  that  microbial contamination and infestations will not easily affect it. The shelf life will be over 6 months. Government authorities can easily procure it as part of our food security against disasters and emergencies. 

“Sand  content  is  less  than  1  percent, making  it  an  excellent  product  that  can compete  with those  from other  places. Cyanide content is less than 10 percent which is the acceptable SON and NAFDAC standards. There are different particle sizes to meet the tastes of different customers”. 

Mode  Of  Payment  For  Getting  These Machines To You 

Orji says, “As you can see, these machines are bulky and made of stainless steel of 3ml Gauge which is above industrial standards. With this, we have to buy the materials (steel) up-front, so we require that the client pays 70 percent down payment for start of production. After production, the client is to pay another 20 percent which includes installation fees, but he has to pay for transportation to transport the equipment to his site and during installation, he has to provide five metric tons of cassava tubers for test-run. Now, training is during  installation  with  his  workers  and thereafter, the client will pay the balance of 10 percent”. 


Orji says, “The cost is not too exorbitant – except when the peeling machine is included which is quite expensive, as Nigeria has not yet gotten the right peeling machines; the one we get in China is an adaptation of potato peeling machine which doesn’t work. Project Development Institute   (PRODA)   makes peeling  machines,  and  there  is  another company in Ibadan that also does that. So, when you include the price of the peeling and washing machine, it can come to about N3.6 million”. 

Which   Other   Areas   Do   You   Have Competence In? 

Orji says, “Aside from our competence in fabricating  cassava  processing  and  storage equipment,  we  have  competence  in  writing feasibility studies for all aspects of cassava business. We have competence in equipment for garri, starch, cassava chips, and ethanol, among others. Now, we want to go into the production of cassava starch sugar – glucose. Do you know that, currently, Nigeria is spending N417 billion anually on importation of sugar and government is looking for a way to use cassava starch to produce glucose, liquid sugar which is used in the beverage industry? A company has hired us to write a feasibility study on that. On ethanol, all the stages’equipment are fabricated locally, it is only the distillation aspect that needs an imported machine”. 

What  Of  Equipment  That  Cannot  Be Fabricated  Locally  Unless  We  Get  Them Abroad? 

Orji  says,  “As  earlier  said,  the  distillation aspect of ethanol cannot be done locally here, it has to be imported. Also, to get a large capacity rotary dryer is a problem, though the flat dryer, made of mildstone is done locally here, which is the heart and soul of drying of cassava starch and cassava flour. Most of the machines for the production of starch sugar, which is glucose, cannot yet be made locally here, but we are making some progress. About the flat dryer, most dryers are so dynamic, as they can be fired with black oil, diesel, charcoal, firewood, palm kernel shells and that is an excellent feature for our environment; knowing fully well that the cost of diesel is high now. So, with the addition of such heat exchangers, you can diversify your sources of heat application. Take for instance, the garri fryer: the local thing is that women stay beside the fire, turning [the garri], but in the mechanized one, the frying pot is propelled by electric motor and there is a rotating part inside turning the cassava mash and the heat doesn’t touch anybody. So, once the termostat says it’s okay, it alerts and stops – that is 10 percent minus moisture content”. 

Why   Must   Someone   Come   To   Get Fabricated Machines From You? 

Orji says, “People out there must come to us for three strategic reasons. Firstly, our machines are made in Nigeria. When they are done locally, you save scarce foreign exchange. Secondly, spare parts are readily available at the press of the botton, as you don’t need to pay expensive DHL bills to freight them from foreign countries.  Thirdly,  production  time  is  very minimal – you know me and I also know you. If you are to open a Letter of Credit to China for a garri production plant, you will have to wait for nine months, but here with us, you are only waiting for maximum of 12 weeks. We are both made in Nigeria, why don’t we patronize each other’s products to grow our economy? We are talking  about  unemployment,  when  people patronize us; we are creating employment for Nigeria”. 

What   Other   Aspects   Of   Cassava Derivatives Do You Have Competence In? 

Orji says, “Well, cassava as you may know has extensive derivatives of value chain and the one that a country is interested in, depends on the  ones  they  have  need  for  and  have competence in processing. Cassava has varieties of derivatives, like you already know garri, which is our staple food here; over 130 million hungry mouths eat ‘eba’ every day; we have flour which can be used for our composite bread. We have starch we are using for a lot of upstream and downstream activities. We have ethanol and even sugar derivatives from flour starch. All these are extensive areas that can be explored”. 


Orji says, “Flour, is on the front burner in Nigeria  right  now,  because  of  the  cassava bread; and the production and process of flour is very simple and similar to that of starch. What we do in starch is, getting the tubers, peel the tubers mechanically. After peeling, you wash to reduce the level of sand content. After peeling and washing, you send the tubers the hammer mill, where they are turned to cassava mash; from there it is sent to the homogenizer, where it gets homogenized with water because production of starch requires a lot of water. 

at least less than 10 percent moisture content and then, the starch is eventually bagged. 

“You  know,  there  are  instances  when people spread the cassava flour under the sun, but it has a lot of disadvantages, though the process cuts down the cost of overhead. You  know  very  well  that  in  the  cause  of spraying, sand can come in contact; germs and other undesirables that are flying around now can contaminate it. Also, if the sun is not very bright, shining and hot, it may not do it well. So, the flat dryer does it under a confined environment and it does it very well”. 


Orji  says,  “As  I  have  earlier  said,  flour production is quite similar to that of starch because the machines are similar. As a matter of fact, we can fabricate a plant of 2.5 metric tons a day that can produce both flour and starch.  It  is  just  addition  of  two  or  three machines – the plant will have the diversity to handle those two derivatives. So, in terms of flour, you peel the tubers and wash the tubers mechanically, after peeling and washing, you have to send them to the hammer miller for milling. Milling in this case, there is no much presence of water, though it is waste milling, but you are milling just the cassava tubers. After milling it, you take to the detoxifier – the toxin there is the cyanide. So, the detoxifier detoxifies  the  cassava  by  removing  the cyanide.   Now,   after   detoxification, it is dewatered in the hydraulic jack by removing the water after which it will be in cake form, you granulate  it  –  to  scatter  it;  so  after  the granulation, you have to mill it again. In this milling process, you have a cyclone because it is in form of dust. So, after this milling process, you have to sieve it. 

“Note that before this, you must have dried it in the flat dryer. So, after granulation, you dry it in the flat dryer, after drying, you mill it Cassava Chips 

Orji says, “Like you know very well, cassava chips is equally on the front burner because of, firstly,  its  production effect  on ethanol, secondly, because it is in very high export demand – as 90 percent of people who are looking for cassava derivatives from Nigeria are looking for cassava chips. Why? This is because cassava chips is a versatile product; if you want to produce flour in a distant land, you can import cassava chips and grind it into flour, because it is dry, it has high shelf life and doesn’t go rancid very easily. So, it goes along the same way – you get the tubers, peel them, then wash them – all mechanically – and then take them back to the peeling machine for slicing.

Most important  are  the  various requirements of the foreign business people: they might tell you the thickness and length of the chips they want. So, your machine must be able to adjust to those sizes. After chipping, you take it to the dryer and after drying, you bag them. You can see that the processes here are shorter. But not necessarily do you have  the  price  of  the  machines  lesser, compared to others, for a single reason – chips are  produced  in  very  high  quantity. 

For instance, for you to export 500 to 600 metric tons of chips per month, you have to produce 25 metric tons a day. So, the overhead is higher and for you to do 25 metric tons a day, you need to have 200 metric tons of cassava tubers at N15,000 to N20,000 per metric ton. The cost of the fixed stock is higher, unlike for garri, where you need only 2,400 metric tons of cassava tubers, or starch where you need 3,000 metric tons – in this case, you need 200 metric tons of cassava tubers on daily basis. 

“So, after the cost of the fixed stock, which is the cost of the raw material – the tubers, then you have four chippers, chipping 1.5 metric tons a day each – the four chippers will have to chip 200 metric tons of cassava tubers and more, a day. Now, you take it to the dryer and the  dryer  that  can  handle  such  massive quantity is very expensive, likewise the fuel consumption. That is why you need experts’ advice in whatever you are doing, lest you get your  fingers  burnt. One the challenges Nigerians are facing is not getting enough cassava tubers; and the solution to this is, Mechanized-Commercialized Cassava Farming.

Four million peasant farmers cultivate 3.85 million hectares of cassava land with hoes and cutlasses, and 70 percent of the cassava is consumed as eba, fufu, amala, and so  on  –  imagine!  So,  if  we  start  planting massive  hectares,  like  10,000  hectares  of cassava plantation whereby we can produce cassava tubers between N6,000 to N8,000 per metric ton, the unit cost will come down and  we  can  compete  with  Vietnam  and Thailand. But once we are still producing with hoes  and  cutlasses,  we  won’t  be  able  to compete at all”. 


Orji says, “Ethanol is a very tricky subject, as there are few companies producing it and it has the same problem as cassava chips – paucity  of  cassava.  If  you  are  to  produce ethanol on a sustainable level, you should have cassava plantations dedicated to ethanol – I mean your own ethanol plantation. One metric ton of ethanol requires 20 metric tons of cassava tubers and one litre of ethanol, requires five litres of water to produce it – it is not a piece of cake. 

“What is ethanol? You hydrolyze the starch in cassava into sugar, ferment the sugar into alcohol, dry the alcohol to 99 percent to get an hydrous ethanol, which means it has only one percent  of  water.  Some  other  types  are, Whisky: ethanol plus whisky flavour, Brandy: ethanol  plus  brandy  flavour.  Ethanol  is  a fundamental  raw  material  for  beverages, medicaments, among others. But Nigeria is not producing ethanol because we don’t have the massive production of cassava – the PMS you use in your car is E10, that is 10 percent ethanol, 90 percent crude oil. America uses corn to produce theirs, Brazil uses sugarcane, while China uses cassava and they depend on us for the cassava.

The production is simple – you get your tubers from the farm and peel them. After that you mill them, like you mill for flour, after which you turn them into a tank of water for boiling and to hydrolyze them into sugar.  Then  from  here,  it  goes  to  the fermentation tank  –  during fermentation, alcohol is produced. So, from here, it goes to the storage tank where you get the worth and to the distillery unit. The distillery unit is the part  we  import,  but  others  are  fabricated locally. So, the crux of the matter is availability and sustainability of raw materials – there is need  for  us  to  be  able  to  sustain  the production.

We need some plantations whereby 20,000 metric tons of cassava tubers will be ready every week or month. The land is available, and we are using now, as all our studies are based on 1,000, 5,000 hectares of cassava plantation and thereabout – mechanized farming with mechanized planter and harvester, as cassava is a gold-mine”. 

Advice To Anyone Wishing To Go Into Cassava Processing 

Orji says, “My advice is that Nigeria must do everything to become a more active player in the global cassava business. It used to be Thailand, but Vietnam of today has over-taken us. We are the highest producer of cassava, yet we don’t make up to $1 million a year. The panacea to this is mechanized commercial cultivation of cassava. I now call upon the Federal,  State  and  Local  governments  to allocate land, like Ekiti has done, for people to access 10,000, 20,000 or 50,000 hectares of land to mechanically grow cassava, so that we can produce at a lesser unit price and be able to compete  globally with countries  like Vietnam and Thailand.

Meanwhile, cassava chips are required all over the world for the production of ethanol – the fuel we use is made of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent crude oil. Though the US makes their ethanol with corn, China  and  Europe  make  their  own  with cassava and they look up to Nigeria for that cassava”.

One Comment on The Massive Cassava Processing Opportunities

    July 13, 2021

    I have so much passion of investing into Agriculture, cassava processing to be precise. After going through this online piece I had a brief knowledge of what it entails, yet I will like to seize this medium to seek for an opportunity for Mentorship/guidance to propel me into the business.

    Looking forward to hear from you at your earliest convenience.



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