Tigernuts: Yet another untapped agro commodity
Cultivation of Tigernuts (Cyperus Esculentus) is gradually assuming the status of a new cash cow for farmers, considering the patronage it enjoys as money-spinner.
Also known as Yellow Nutsedge, called Aya in Hausa language, Ofio in Igbo and Omu in Yoruba, it is one of the many ‘unsong’ crops with potential to earn foreign exchange for the country. The Spanish call it Chufa and makes a drink called Horchata de Chufa from it. The Hausas make a drink called Kuunu Aya from it as well.
It is a very popular tropical crop cultivated mostly in the north-Sokoto, Taraba, Kano and Plateau.
Tigernut is classified as a tuber crop, even as it grows as grass. Research efforts have shown that the crop could also be an important raw material for the country’s pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.
Dubbed ‘Superfoods’, Tigernuts get a fair amount of attention in health food aisles, a development that has made it more popular across the country.
According to health experts, tigernuts act as anti-oxidant, as it is high in vitamin E and oleic acid content; allergen & gluten-free, which makes its consumption suitable for celiac patients; has high amount of resistant starch, which is a valuable prebiotic; controls diabetes, as its insoluble fibers help maintain the blood sugar level; lower bad cholesterol; and repair bones and tissues, due to presence of significant amount of essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron necessary for bones, tissues repair, muscles, and the bloodstream.
Findings show that one serving of tigernut (one ounce or 30 grams) contains about 120 calories, 19 grams carbohydrates, two grams protein; seven grams fat, grams fiber, 1.8 milligrams iron, 28 milligrams magnesium, 1.1 milligrams zinc, 215 milligrams potassium, and one milligrams vitamin B6.
A Kano-based farmer, Yahaya Aminu told The Guardian that aside the fact that the crop can be eaten raw or roasted, it is commonly processed into smoothies–a refreshing beverage, which has high nutritional value and acts like an energy drink for both young and old.
“Majority of people are getting to know about the energy side of tigernuts, and the health benefits. This development has increased sales and cultivation because many farmers are seeing the hidden potentials of cultivating the commodity.”
Findings show that another potential of the crop is that it can be processed into flour, which can be used as meals or to produce biscuits and other bakery products, making it a great input in the food market.
The Guardian learnt that as a source of oil, tigernuts can be used in pharmacy for treatment of diarrhea, and indigestion, and can also be utilized in cosmetic industry as it helps slow down the aging of skin cells.
New research also reveals that it can be used to produce biofuel, which will be cheaper and environment-friendly energy source.
Said Aminu: “Tigernut is a an wholesome stuff. It is efficient in changing the economic fortune of rural farmers with the help of proper guidance.
“Based on its potentials, our appeal to government is to tap into this crop, to encourage its commercial cultivation, in order to boost the economy, as part of efforts to diversify the economy. It is also capable of creating more jobs and encourage those already cultivating the crop.”
Sunkanmi Okesola, an agro commodity exporter disclosed that despite that it is majorly cultivated in the north, the crop holds a lot of promise for farmers.
Okesola Said: “Currently, China is the top importer of the produce, coupled with opportunities from other countries. “The profit margins from international buyers can be anywhere from 15 per cent to 110 per cent. All depends on whether you’re the farmer or are purchasing from the farms.
“Tigernuts cultivation is now a lucrative business for farmers who have interest in it, on one hand, it is also a lucrative export business for anyone who chooses to venture into the export of agricultural products from Nigeria. Irrespective of the quantity the buyer needs, your profit margins could be far higher or lower, but still substantial.”