The Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN) is promoting sweet potato flour as a viable business. The project is expected to be a source of income for the unemployed, civil servants and retirees. DANIEL ESSIET reports.
The Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN) is exploring a range of agro produce as part of a strategy to expand exports and boost domestic production.
It believes there is high demand for sweet potato, melon, mango, pineapple, yam, pepper, pumpkin, herbs and spices.
Specifically, a project to promote sweet potato flour to serve as cassava substitute is in the offing.
Sweet potato has many uses. Not only can it be grown as a food substitute for cassava, it can also serve as a potential source of raw materials for industrial uses and food delicacies.
In addition, it can be processed into feeds, flour, starch, and other products for local and export markets.
FACAN National President Dr. Victor Iyama, noted that sweet potato is a nutritious vegetable with a lot of potential.
Apart from this, he noted that there are business opportunities along the sweet potato value chain; from planting to marketing and processing of the crop.
In view of this, he said the association would promote sweet potatoes processing into flour that would be consumed like garri in homes and restaurants.
He explained that a lot of Nigerians would be trained on how to process sweet potatoes into flour and a wide variety of value-added offerings for the retail market to enable them start new business along the value chain.
One advantage that sweet potato provides for the youth considering agro business, according to him, is that it can be harvested within four months. Secondly, startup capital can be as low as N250,000.
As Nigerians are encouraged to cut sugar intake and eat more fibre and antioxidants, he said sweet potato is full of vitamins.
To move this project forward, Iyama said the association would partner Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), which has promised to provide its members with special machines that can process sweet potatoes into flour.
Working with Iyama in the campaign is the National President, Potato Farmers Association Of Nigeria (POFAN), Hon Bayo Agboola, who wants the public to take advantage of sweet potatoes? rich vitamins which cure vitamin A deficiency diseases.
Besides being rich in Vitamin A content, he noted that sweet potato could help in fighting obesity.
Agboola, also the Southwest coordinator of FACAN, explained that sweet potato production is financially viable, adding that one could go into commercial production of tubers, vines, storage technologies and snack production.
With small scale processing facilities, he believes a lot of entrepreneurs can process sweet potato into products that can be used in sauces, vegetable/fruit juices, among others.
He explained that it could be grown in various soils ? from heavy to sandy. However, it thrives best in sandy loam soils rich in organic matter in areas with uniform rainfall and good drainage.
He explained that the crop could be planted throughout the year but the ideal planting time for best varieties was at the onset of the rainy season or immediately after the rainy season when soil is still moist.
On the whole, according to him, sweet potato is relatively cheap for households.
Meanwhile, the demand for sweet potatoes has increased country wide with more entrepreneurs venturing into the business.