Cuban ambassador tours Barbados cassava projects
In its ongoing effort to address the region’s mounting $US4 billion plus annual food import bill, the Food and Agriculture Organization, in close collaboration with other regional agricultural agencies, has identified cassava development as a key pillar of its programme of assistance. In this regard, FAO, Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI), and the Barbados Ministry of Agriculture, mounted a recent field trip with the Ambassador of Cuba to Barbados, Mrs. Lissette Bárbara Pérez Pérez. The aim is to develop a South-South Cooperation program of assistance to develop a cassava industry in Barbados and the Caribbean.
Ambassador Perez visited four cassava fields in St. George and St. Phillip to have a first-hand look at activities. At plots set up by the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Company (BADMC), she was shown different cassava varieties and irrigation methods. In addition, at the BADMC’s processing plant in Fairy Valley, she surveyed operations which covert locally produced sweet potato, cassava, and breadfruit into flour and other value added products like cassava pancake and cornbread mixes. Interest was shown in expanding the current capacity of the plant and its equipment to fully take advantage of the opportunity for increased production and product development.
In a brief discussion at the end of the tour FAO Subregional Coordinator, Dr. Deep Ford, outlined the regional strategy being developed for the cassava industry and referenced the previous assistance offered to CARICOM countries by the Government of Cuba through South-South Cooperation. He expressed his hope that similar assistance could be provided to this current initiative in the form of technical assistance in the areas of agricultural engineering for field operation and processing, value chain development and agronomic management.
FAO’s initiative, Improving National and Regional Food and Feed systems, responds to the need in the Caribbean to increase production and productivity, use local products and reduce food imports. This initiative is being developed in collaboration with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Ministries of Agriculture and other agriculture and food agencies in the region. FAO has allocated resources and technical assistance to increase the acreage of cassava cultivated in the region.
Calculations have established yields of between 30,000 and 40,000 pounds per acre as necessary for a viable and sustainable industry. Yields of this level will fuel processing plants to convert the primary product into a number of secondary value-added products including flour, fries, starch and chips as a component of animal feed and even beer. These demonstration fields have been established to prove that farmers can obtain yields this level of production with improved varieties, management and timely operational procedures. Similar demonstration fields are about to be planted in Jamaica, Guyana and Grenada.
FAO and its regional partners are committed to supporting national government efforts to increasing agricultural production to reduce their food import bill. An important factor in achieving the goals set will be the South South support received from countries such as Cuba who are much more advanced in production and use of crops such as cassava.