Outside of the Palm value chain, alcohol or ethanol can also be produced from Cassava. Ethanol and alcohol are the same. They have the same physical and chemical properties, and both are formed by the fermentation of glucose by enzymes in yeast. Alcohol is any chemical having a ‘“OH” functional group.
Ethanol (Ethyl Alcohol) is one of the numerous by-products that can be obtained when palm or cassava or yam or rice or potatoes or any carbohydrate-bearing plant is industrially processed. The chemical properties of the alcoholic content in all the final products are the same; it is only the taste or flavour that might vary.
Economic Importance of Ethanol
Countries like Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Hong Kong have advanced to the stage of processing ethanol from raw cassava. Ethanol is mainly used for making not only beer and wine but also for powering automobiles at relatively reduced costs.
Pharmaceutical industries use ethanol in their laboratories for manufacturing blood tonic and multivitamin syrups. Some of them simply bottle ethanol as methylated spirits used in treating cuts and wounds in hospitals and various homes. Otherspackageethanol as facial cleansers and shaving products for men and women. Oil and gas companies have gone ahead to manufacture a varied range of perfumes, insecticides and varnishes, by adding colouration, fragrances and chemicals to finished ethanol products.
Demand-Supply Gap (the opportunity)
It is an irony of fate that Nigeria, the world’s largest producer of cassava, is still not yet producing enough cassava to meet its industrial consumption needs; how much more her export needs. However, it is cheering that the few existing industrial ethanol-producing firms in Nigeria are beginning to grow and process cassava to augment their raw material needs, by partnering with the local peasant farmers. A few state governments are also nursing similar ideas. Yet, all their efforts do not guarantee sufficient supply at the present moment. There still exists a wide demand-supply gap.
For instance, out of the 400 million litres that the country’s ethanol plants consume in a year, the existing ethanol plants in Nigeria currently generate (supply) a total output of only 9 million litres on their own; just about 2.25% of the total industrial requirements (demand); which means that the remaining 97.75% (the gap) is still being met through importation. The yawning demand-supply gap is certainly a great investment opportunity for anyone willing to produce ethanol or supply raw cassava.
Let us pause at this juncture to calculate the amount of money that we are losing as a result of our collective inability to take advantage of this huge investment opportunity. Now, given that Nigeria our country imports close to 400 million litres of ethanol annually to meet its composite industrial consumption needs, and against the backdrop that a litre of ethanol is sold for about N400, it means that our country spends N160 billion annually on the importation of ethanol.
Imagine that the local farmers were to cultivate sufficient cassava that could meet the needs of ethanol-producing plants in the country it means that a whopping N160 billion would have gone into their bank accounts. On the flip side, the equivalent of N160 billion in foreign exchange, which is about 350 million US Dollars or more, given that we were to export the ethanol, would have also been saved and added to the country’s external reserves.