Ethanol Production, New Money Spinner in The Nigerian Economy
Ethanol production is winding its way into the economy. It has the potential of aiding electricity generation, food and beverages production. Increasing demand for the ‘spirit’ is helping cassava growers earn greater returns, the Nations reports.
In recent years, the ethanol industry is getting more lucrative as its patronage is swelling. The outlook for it remains bright with some manufacturers getting good revenue. But to stay in business, the supply chain for the raw material, cassava, must not be broken. Hence, cassava farmers are essential to them to meet the growing demand for ethanol.
A local producer of ethanol, Allied Atlantic Distilleries Limited (AADL), located in Lusada, Igbese community of Ogun State, ranks as the largest cassava based ethanol producing company in Africa. An ethanol factory requires approximately 250 tons of cassava daily. This has created income opportunities for agro entrepreneurs. Already over 8,000 farmers within 70-km radius of Igbesa, covering Ogun and Oyo states, are involved in the programme. More farmers are been engaged and the factory is providing more than 40,000 indirect jobs.
Indeed, Ethanol production provides a savory opportunity to improve livelihoods, starting at the farm and continuing all the way with those who enjoy it. AADL Director, Mr. Rajavelu Rajasekar, said his company is the first cassava based ethanol producing factory in Nigeria, producing nine million litres of ethanol per year, amounting to three to four per cent country’s requirement. According to him, the remaining 96 to 97 percent deficit is still been imported from Brazil and India, among other countries.
Rajasekar said: “We produce 30,000 litres of ethanol per day and we produce everyday throughout the year. We consume between 225 to 250 tons of cassava everyday. We are probably the biggest consumer of cassava in the country as an industry and the mill runs everyday of the year unless we are suffocated by non-supply of cassava supply.”
“We consume up to 75,000 tons of cassava per year and we produce nine million litres of ethanol per year. Nigeria imports close to 400million litres of ethanol in a year and Nigeria is a dependent import country of ethanol,”he explained.
He continued: “Out of the 400million litres that the country consumes in a year, AADL produces only nine million litres which is only three to four percent requirement of what the country needs so the remaining 96 to 97per cent is still being imported by Nigeria from various countries such as Brazil, India and other countries.”
According to him, “the truth is that we are still not getting enough supply from the market. “Since we started producing in 2013, there has not been a year without full supply of cassava,”he said. To run a seamless supply of raw materials, Rajasekar disclosed that his company had partnered the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to boost mass cassava production through mechanisation.
He disclosed that Nigeria spends about N160billion annually to import about 400 million litres of ethanol for industrial use.
To reverse this negative trend, Rajasekar said various governments must encourage investors to engage in mass production of cassava, arguing that the days of cassava being perceived as a poor man’s crop in Nigeria was long gone. “Cassava is now an industrial crop capable of reviving the economy of the country,” he said.
Nigeria, in his view, as the world largest producer of cassava, is not producing enough cassava to meet its local consumption. While stressing that his factory was not getting enough cassava to meet its requirement, Rajasekar stressed: “The demand for cassava is now higher than ever and Nigeria needs to plant more cassava to meet its demand.”
African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) Communications and Partnerships Officer for West Africa, Umaru Abu added that AATF partnered AADL to serve as off-taker of cassava produced by famers in Nigeria, saying: “We must ensure that there is market for their produce because we realised that some farmers in the past usually complain that they had so much cassava on their farms, but they didn’t have buyers for them.”
With the ethanol extraction factory, farmers are no longer worried about market for their cassava. According to him, farmers now see the ethanol plant as a good market for their produce. About 55 per cent of ethanol being imported is used for domestic production of alcoholic spirits, and the remaining 45 per cent for other industrial uses, which include, food and beverage production.