Tuesday 19 June, 2018

Caribbean region suffers from low Cassava production

Plant Production and Protection Officer of FAO's Sub-regional Office (Barbados) - Ms. Vyjayanthi Lopez.

Plant Production and Protection Officer of FAO's Sub-regional Office (Barbados) - Ms. Vyjayanthi Lopez.

The development of the cassava industry in the Caribbean can provide a huge import substitution market opportunity for food, flour, feed and even beer.

This will, however, require an efficient value chain system so as to address current production, processing and market development challenges. This was expressed by Plant Production and Protection Officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation's (FAO) Sub regional Office (Barbados) Vyjayanthi Lopez.

She made the comment during her presentation at the Launch of the project - 'Cassava Industry Development Market Assessment and Technology Validation and Dissemination' at a FAO-hosted Inception Workshop which took place at Kapok Hotel on Tuesday.

Lopez identified current import statistics within the region of which she quantified wheat (used for flour) at 900,000 metric tonnes; corn (used for feed) at 420,000 metric tonnes and beer industry imports (malt) at 100,000 tonnes per annum.

She said while cassava has been prioritized by CARICOM countries for development as a food and commodity crop, the region's cassava industry at present, is fragmented and suffers from "low production and productivity".

These and other deficiencies she attributed primarily to the absence of well-coordinated value-added research, innovation and development which the development project seeks to fill.

The three-year project which is to be funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to the tune of US$1,200,000 will benefit Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Suriname, by providing support for cassava industry research on the ground.

Ms. Lopez said, "While the duty falls on the FAO to implement the project, national implementation is the responsibility of the respective Governments to identify lands for demonstration plots in addition to designating the relevant Ministry personnel such as a National Project Co-ordinator and Extension Officers, to assist in the process."

Also speaking at the Workshop was Director of the Agricultural Planning Division in the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries - Neela Maharaj - who lauded the project as "an integrated approach to the development of the cassava industry" which she said would benefit Trinidad and Tobago via "increased cassava production and yields through the use of improved varieties; improved crop management techniques; and enhanced technology transfer."

Similarly, she alluded to another project presented at the Workshop - 'Sustainable Approaches to Agribusiness and Value Chain Development of Root and Tuber Crops in the Caribbean - which she said will "strengthen synergies between value chain actors" and subsequently increase efficiencies throughout the value chain and the adoption of best practices in harvesting and processing.

She said, "It is anticipated that the increase in the number of formalized value chains in the root and tuber sector will encourage greater investment into the agriculture sector; foster rural development and increase the contribution of agriculture to the Gross Domestic Product in the country."

The one-day Workshop which sought the agreement of stakeholders on the various work plans and contractual arrangements involved in the implementation of the project activities was attended by FAO Project Co-ordinator, Vermaran Extavour; the Ministry's Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Simone Titus and Directors: Albada Beekham (Research Division); Kirk Armour (Regional Administration North) and Deokee Bholasingh-Hay (Extension, Training and Information Services Division); as well as representatives from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) - Division of Food Production, Forestry and Fisheries and; the National Marketing Development Corporation (NAMDEVCO).