JIS News

The Government is now working on a pilot project to demonstrate the potential of cassava as a local substitute for imported starches such as rice and flour. The project will be undertaken by two government agencies, over seven years.
Investment Officer for the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP) in the Agriculture Ministry and Co-ordinator for this initiative, Dean Passard, explains in a JIS News interview that the project is expected to show the kind of yields that can be had from cassava cultivation; what the perfect stand of cassava should look like; the best way to plant the crop; and how to manage the crop in terms of weed control and fertilization, among other things.
“The government believes that this crop could be used in several areas, that will help in such a way to ensure that we are less dependent on agricultural produce that we now have to be importing,” Mr. Passard points out.
He informs that the preparation approximately 300 acres of land, is far advanced and that planting will commence this month.
Through this cultivation, it is expected that the crops yielded will be processed into products by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) Twickenham Bammy Factory through its Social Services/Home Economics Unit.
He informs that the Ministry will be working closely with RADA and the Twickenham factory to develop menu items in support of the Education Ministry’s School Feeding Programme. In addition, the products will be used in the public hospital system and correctional institutions, as a substitute for traditional starches.
Mr. Passard is confident that this venture will be sucessful, as it is expected that a $130 million profit will be made over the project period. He professes that, “we will have very good yields and we will have some actual concrete data in terms of not just projected costs (and) projected profits but actual costs and actual profits. we intend to carry out the best practices and we should have a nice crop come harvesting.”
Cassava, which is usually harvested in nine months, has been found to provide the same amount of energy as rice. It also exceeds the nutritional value of rice in terms of its protein, fibre, calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin C, and thiamine contents, which makes it a suitable substitute for rice.
Mr. Passard points out further that the government intends, through the increased promotion of its thrust to plant more cassavas, to bring the private sector on board in this initiative, so that cassava cultivation can be seen as a sound business venture. “If there are opportunities out there, the private sector will move in to fill that opportunity because there is a profit to be made. What we need to do now, is to make sure that this is adequately publicized.what we need to ensure is that we disseminate the results of the project that we are running right now,” Mr. Passard states.
Among the products that are to be developed with cassava, are: bammies, cassava pancake mix, chips, and cassava flour which is used to make breads, puddings, and cones. Bammies may also be cut into strips and eaten with a dip.
He notes that some of these products are already being produced, but that there has not been enough publicity to highlight them. He states however that the government would “be engaging with the public, so that they could be informed of the myriad of uses for human consumption that cassava can be used for and to expose to them also the things that we are doing with menu items for cassava.”
Dismissing concerns about the toxicity of cassavas, especially in the bitter cassavas, as a “non issue,” Mr. Passard points out that if cassavas are prepared properly, there would be no toxic danger.
While admitting that both types of cassavas have toxic elements, he notes that the sweet cassava “has much lower HCN content than bitter cassavas.” HCN is a chemical derived from hydrogen cyanide which is a colorless, very poisonous, and highly volatile liquid.
“But if both of them are processed properly, there is no issue with toxicity at all. Any issue that comes up where toxicity is concerned, is because of improper processing of the tuber itself.with proper processing, the issue of toxicity is a non issue,” he assures
He says that boiling the cassava, as you would yam, would even further minimize the danger of HCN, but advises that persons eat only the sweet cassavas. “In terms of if you are going to be boiling the cassava to eat, like how you would eat yam, it’s best to stick with the sweet cassavas, because that will be very minimal processing.because it’s just boiling.” Mr. Passard notes too that the sweet cassava is more palatable as the taste is more similar to yam than bitter cassavas.

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