Business News of Friday, 11 March 2016

Source: GNA

Cassava a potential industrial crop

Cassava has become a potential industrial crop, which could reduce imports, increase exports, create employment and increase smallholder farmers’ incomes along the value chain.

Due to the versatility of High-Quality Cassava flour (HQCF) and high starch content, cassava could be processed into four main product areas, which are cassava chips, HQCF, starch and ethanol.

HQCF is unfermented edible cassava flour.

The Managing Director of Caltech Ventures, Mr Chris Quarshie, in a presentation on the “Africa HQCF Market Prospects:” Ghana as case study, said of the four categories, HQCF was the low hanging fruit.

He explained: “This is because of its relative ease of production and higher value addition; compared to chips, it has relatively lower investment cost, and it is a viable alternative to wheat flour and native starch in bakery and in industrial applications.

The conference, ‘The Second Cassava World-Africa Summit’, held on the theme, “Roadmap to Increase Cassava Production and Investments of higher value-added products”, was organised by the Centre for Management Technology based in Thailand.

Mr Quarshie said when promoted, a total of 115,000 tonnes of HQCF could be used to address demands in the bakery industry to replace wheat flour, industrial starch production and packaged food industry.

However, he said there were major constraints such as importation of wheat flour into the country among others, which needed to be addressed through government policy and interventions.

According to him, market prospects for HQCF in Ghana were bright if the supply, consumer awareness, technological and price challenges could be addressed through policy, applied research, production and promotional interventions by various stakeholders.

Hosted by the Ghana Cassava Growers Association, the summit brought together representatives and stakeholders from major cassava growing countries in the world including, Nigeria, Brazil and Mozambique.)

The conference was aimed at encouraging cassava producing countries to add value to their products to help alleviate poverty among small holder farmers.

The Africa Regional Agro Industrialist Officer of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Ms Stephanie Gallatova, called for a more conducive policy environment to promote public-private-partnership (PPP) in the agriculture sector.

This, she said, would make the sector more attractive as, “There are lots of opportunities in the agriculture sector in Africa but also there are more challenges due to small holder farmers”.

Ms Gallatova said PPP in the agriculture sector would make it more attractive for the private sector to venture into agro-processing and investments in the sector.

The private sector, she said, could help build the capacity of small holder farmers to help produce more.

She said over the years, the Nigerian Government had embarked on a cassava transformation agenda, which had led to the country producing 35 per cent of high quality cassava in Africa and 19 per cent of the global agricultural need.

She said due to the more conducive policy environment in the production of cassava in Nigeria, the country over the last three years, increased its production from 42 million tonnes to 55 million tonnes.

Ghana, on the other hand, she said, produced 14 million tonnes to 15 million tonnes, yearly, and noted that the country had the potential to produce more with the right policy environment.

Mr Lambert Abusah, the Director, Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in a speech read on behalf of the sector Minister, Alhaji Mohammed-Muniru Limuna, said currently, the Government was considering a policy for high quality cassava flour for use in the food industry as a key ingredient of composite flour.

The Minister said, “We have put together a cross-sectoral team, which is working to develop a composite flour using High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) policy for Government with the support from the FAO”.

This, according to the Minister, would go a long way to help open the market for small-holder farmers.

He said the cassava value chain was an economic transformational tool for food security, economic opportunities and poverty alleviation when structured properly.

“Cassava is a major transformational crop, which can be a major game-changer in our national development agenda,” he said.