CARICOM Leaders Served Cassava-Based Dishes at CARICOM Heads of Government Summit

Addressing the food import bill, creating new jobs in the food and agricultural sector and improving nutrition and health through appropriate public policy for the cassava industry were promoted at the recently concluded 36th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), held July 2-4 in Barbados.

The Caribbean Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC), Purity Bakery and Hilton Hotel ensured that all bread products served to Presidents, Prime Ministers and Heads of Delegation during the summit included 40% grated cassava and cassava flour. They were also served 100 % cassava pancakes and 100% gluten-free cassava great cake (black fruit cake).

The products, which were well received, demonstrated in a practical manner how the utilization of local products might contribute to the revitalization of regional economies. FAO's Caribbean Regional Coordinator, (immediate left) Dr. Deep Ford, noted that "the utilization of cassava in the bakery, feed and beer industries provides many real opportunities. Bakers and bakeries in six Caribbean countries have already been trained to incorporate cassava, replacing at least 40% of imported wheat in bakery products.

The products, which were well received, demonstrated in a practical manner how the utilization of local products might contribute to the revitalization of regional economies. FAO’s Caribbean Regional Coordinator, (immediate left) Dr. Deep Ford, noted that “the utilization of cassava in the bakery, feed and beer industries provides many real opportunities. Bakers and bakeries in six Caribbean countries have already been trained to incorporate cassava, replacing at least 40% of imported wheat in bakery products.

The Red Stripe beer company has already opened a US$2 million cassava processing plant and initially, a bottle of Red Stripe beer will contain 5 % cassava starch, with the intention of reaching 40% by 2020. Efforts to replace imported corn in the feed industry needs to be expanded as well.”

The culinary activity at the Heads of Government Meeting formed part of the FAO's ongoing promotional campaign for the development of public policy that encourages a greater adoption of regionally grown roots and tubers such as cassava, in an effort to safeguard the region's food and nutrition security and contribute to a reduction of the food import bill.

The culinary activity at the Heads of Government Meeting formed part of the FAO’s ongoing promotional campaign for the development of public policy that encourages a greater adoption of regionally grown roots and tubers such as cassava, in an effort to safeguard the region’s food and nutrition security and contribute to a reduction of the food import bill.

The incoming CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart, in his opening address at the Conference, also indicated the need for greater food security in the region, noting that “the time had come for the region to stop depending so heavily on international countries to satisfy the Caribbean’s food supply.”

Several heads and delegates of states who visited FAO’s display station of cassava products, expressed interest and surprise at the progress of the initiative and the variety of goods that can be produced from cassava. The officials responded positively to the innovation of replacing 40% wheat with grated cassava and cassava flour in the preparation of bread and other bakery products, and well as to the taste of the products with which they were presented.

The FAO is providing support to both the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and to the Caribbean Agribusiness Association (CABA), for the promotion of production and processing of cassava and cassava products respectively, in countries across the region.

According to the FAO, cassava has the potential to replace 400 000 metric tonnes of wheaten flour in CARICOM countries; substitute up to 30% of the corn in poultry rations as well as a portion of other animal feeds and contribute to a reduction of the Food Import Bill by more than 5%.

Growth and expansion of the cassava industry, through inclusive and sustainable processes, are a critical part of the commitment of FAO to improve and safeguard food and nutrition security in CARICOM.

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