1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Cassava is one of the most important crops grown in the tropics and a major carbohydrate staple. It is the third most important source of calories in the tropics after cereal crops (FAO, 2008). World production of cassava is estimated at 242 million tonnes, of which 54% (130 million tonnes) is produced in Africa. West Africa alone contributes about 68 million tonnes, equivalent to 52% of production. Ghana is the third African producer, after Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo with a yearly production of approximately 10 million tonnes representing 8% of total cassava production on the continent (FAO Food Outlook, 2009).
In Africa, cassava production has more than quadrupled since 1961 from 33 million to 122 million tonnes in 2006 (IFAD, 2010). In countries like Nigeria and Ghana, wide adoption of high yielding varieties and better pest management has resulted in a sharp rise in production. Cassava is a perishable crop and a bulky product, which makes it costly to transport without initial processing. According to FAO (2011) between 35% and 40% of cassava produced in Ghana are lost through postharvest losses accounting for between 3.5 million tonnes to 4 million tonnes annually. This account for between 875 tonnes to one million tons of cassava chips worth about $200 million annually. In Nigeria, cassava is primarily produced for its roots which are a major and cheap source of carbohydrate in human diet, containing 20% amylose and 70% amylopectin, an important source of energy with a calorific value of 250 kcal/ha/day and is regarded as poor man’s food, a more appropriate food crop for the tropical world (RMRDC, 2004). In recent times, cassava has gained attention as a potential industrial crop. The tubers constitute an important component of livestock feed production in various parts of the world. The tubers are processed into cassava flour for bakery and confectioneries. Again, the high carbohydrate content and other qualities such as amylose and amylopectin ratio predispose cassava tubers for various industrial uses such as starch production, modified starch, ethanol, monosodium glutamate (MSG), glucose syrup, fructose syrup, sorbitol, sago, citric acid, adhesives, microbial enzymes, sweeteners among others. Rising oil prices coupled with the need to address concerns about emission from transportation fuels and the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol on carbon emission has led to the promulgation of a mandatory blending of biofuels (ethanol) with fossil fuels in Europe by 2020, which will require cassava chips as the alternative raw material feedstock (UNCTAD, 2009).
According to FAO Food outlook (2009) cassava chips production will become a major emerging market opportunity for bio fuels. One huge challenge to cassava production and processing is its high moisture content of about 65% making it extremely perishable. According to IITA (1990), once tubers are harvested, they begin to deteriorate within 40-48 hours due to some physiological changes and decay by rot organisms.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
This research is designed to address itself on the method of handling cassava processing in some selected villages in Edo State.