Big plans for cassava
CASSAVA PRODUCTION could be a million dollar industry if the root crop was grown in the right quantities and found its way into the right markets.
And it was to this end, said Raymon van Anrooy, an officer at the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission, that the FAO was working with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to promote research and growth of the crop with farmers in Barbados and the wider Caribbean.
Van Anrooy, speaking to the DAILY?NATION at Agrofest in Queen’s Park over the weekend, said cassava was a highly nutritious crop that was perfect for local markets, as well as the environment. The project with the island’s farmers was less than a year old.
“There is work to be done to work on the value chain to strengthen further the cooperatives working in agriculture to become stronger and actually provide a stable supply to the big companies, to the supermarkets. There might even be possibilities for the cruise liners and for hotel industry,” van Anrooy said.
“But they want a supply that is on a daily or weekly basis, in sufficient quantities because it has to be reliable and so far we can’t deliver that.”
He also said there was scope for cassava in animal fodder.
“And we’re talking about millions and millions of dollars that could be earned if there is good cooperation and cassava is grown in larger quantities,” he stressed.
However, van Anrooy said the FAO’s work in the island and the region was not just limited to cassava, but extended to breadfruit, as well as herbs and vegetables.
“It is ridiculous that countries in the region are importing so much vegetables and fruits from the USA,” he said.
“We are talking about billions of dollars every year and these imports could be halved in the future if we work together. But it requires a lot of research; it requires administrative capacity building by Governments, who are already doing a good job but could be doing more,” van Anrooy noted.
The agriculture organisations were also looking at helping small farmers with their marketing and access to funding “because they can be good farmers but they may not be good salesmen”.