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Business News of Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Source: Graphic online

Cassava centre pushes for 10% inclusion in flour policy

The Ghana Cassava Centre of Excellence has asked the government to develop a flour policy with a 10 per cent high quality cassava flour inclusion to promote the utilisation of cassava in the country.

The association explained that considering such clause in the policy would help secure market and sustain business for farmers because cassava had a great impact on the lives of the rural people as well as a great potential for industrialisation.

“The government must as a matter of urgency consider a policy for high quality cassava flour for use in the food industry,” the Executive Director of Ghana Cassava Centre of Excellence, Mr William Agyei-Manu made the call when the Agribusiness members of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) called on the sector minister, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, on Friday, April 7, 2017 in Accra.

He observed that the government’s agenda to transform the economy through agriculture must strictly focus on the development of the cassava value chain.

Mr Agyei-Manu, who is also the Head of the Cassava Sub-sector of the AGI, said other countries such as Nigeria, Brazil and Thailand had developed the cassava value chain and this had impacted positively on the livelihood of their small-holder farmers.

Ghana currently is the third leading cassava producer in Africa and the sixth in the world, he said, adding that irrespective of its position, cassava was less respected in the economy.

He observed that from 1984 cassava had been making tremendous strides to make Ghana the sixth producing country after Nigeria, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, and DR Congo.

Available figures indicate that output of cassava has risen from 14.2 million metric tonnes in 2012 to 17.2 million metric tonnes in 2016. This sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP cannot be underestimated, with creation of jobs high among the list of benefits derived from the sector.

Mr Agyei-Manu said although the Ghanaian economy required 200,000 metric tonnes of starch annually, the utilisation and marketing of cassava had been a challenge over the years.

“It is for this reason that we are using this platform to call on government to consider 10 per cent or more high quality cassava flour inclusion in our national flour policy,” he said.

Potential for transformation

The Executive Director said cassava, which had in the past not received a lot of respect, now held the potential for helping to transform the economy.

He stated, however, that more than 45 per cent of the cassava produced in the country went to waste due to post harvest losses, adding that if the right mechanisms were put in place “ this crop would sooner than later compete with cocoa as the foreign income earners for Ghana”.

He mentioned cassava items such as flour for bread, starch for industrial output, glucose and sweeteners for confectioneries, and chips which could be used for animal feed, with yet other parts for the brewing of beer.

Mr Agyei-Manu said Ghana continued to import lots of ethanol and starch for the pharmaceutical industry, “which could be procured cheaply in the country if proper attention was paid to the cassava value chain.

He stated that the government must as a matter of urgency put together a cross sectoral team to develop a policy that would place emphasis on developing cassava’s value chain.

Free quota

The Executive Director indicated that government must also develop measures to utilise the free quata given to the country to export about four million metric tonnes of cassava chips onto the Chinese market every year.

“Presently, Ghana and Nigeria have been granted a quota free platform to export four million metric tonnes of cassava chips onto the Chinese market every year,” he noted.

“Ghana’s growth can be greatly enhanced by accelerated agricultural development. Agricultural outputs underpin many industrial operations in this country and beyond. Cassava is one of the easy-to-cultivate crops in this country, yet with numerous uses and a promising yield,” he said.

“It is able to withstand the weather conditions in Ghana. There are now numerous varieties of the crop that are suited to the conditions of sub-Saharan Africa and at the same time able to give high yields at harvest. Cassava production is now a lucrative business compared to other crops and even non-farm businesses,” he added.