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Diversifying Agric: Cassava has potential to boost Ghana's economy

According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana produces about 16 million metric tonnes of cassava of which an estimate of about 11 million tonnes is available for human consumption.

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Ghana is the third leading cassava producer in Africa and the sixth in the world, whilst the commercialisation of the crop is nascent.

Cassava holds the potential for helping to transform the economy.

According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana produces about 16 million metric tonnes of cassava of which an estimate of about 11 million tonnes is available for human consumption.

However, only four million tonnes of the crop is available for human consumption is eaten, leaving more than seven million tonnes as surplus but with the right mechanisms the crop would sooner than later compete with cocoa as the foreign income earners for Ghana.

Cassava items such as flour for bread, starch for industrial output, glucose and sweeteners for confectioneries, and chips could be used for animal feed while the other parts are suitable for the brewing of beer.

Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Fifi Kwetey at the inauguration of the Ghana Industrial Cassava Stakeholders Platform (GICSP) in Accra said the government’s agenda to transform the economy through agriculture, would focus on the cassava value chain.

This, he said, is because cassava has a great impact on the lives of the rural people as well as having a great potential for industrialisation.

The platform comprising researchers, producers, processors and other industry players seek to develop the industrial cassava as an industrial crop, address challenges and pursue opportunities in the Ghana industrial value chain.

“The government is considering a policy for high quality cassava flour for use in the food industry,” Mr Kwetey said.

Mr Cyril Ugwa of The Sustainable Trade, he said the estimated addressable demand for cassava would be worth $20 million by 2020.

He said global trade of cassava has increase by 10 per cent over the last five years.

Mr Ugwa said with 57 per cent of Ghanaian farmers are cassava farmers but only one per cent of their produce is for commercial purposes.

According to him Ghana stands the chance to gain $ 34million savings from import of wheat, ethanol and starch and appealed to government to provide a local content policy to protect the interest of indigenous companies that produce ethanol and starch.

Mr Kodwo Ahlijah, Chairman of GICSP said a huge market opportunity exists for Ghana to produce for cassava starch, ethanol or High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF).

According to him as at 2014 Ghana’s arable land, which had not been cultivated, stood at 6.3 million hectares adding that if 500,000 of these lands were cultivated to support processing plants it could generate $2.4 billion annually.

He called for a fully funded cassava research institute to breed industrial cassava with high starch of not less than 25 per cent and the establishment of a Cassava Development Board to oversee the consideration and handling of these request.

Dr Nanam Tay, Director of the Food Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research called for the need to drive and sustain the platform for the desired results.

He said despite the poor yields of cassava its potential to boost the Ghanaian economy could not be underestimated and called on the Agriculture Ministry to speed up the policy on the HQCF.

Dr Tay said the finalisation of the policy is long overdue.

Mr Seth Dei, Founder of Blue Skies Company said it is time to turn attention to cassava because it is no longer the lowest commodity and Ghanaians need to take advantage of it benefits.

 

GNA

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