Food, Feed and Fuel: Cassava Is the Caribbean’s “Diamond In The Rough”

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Daphne Ewing-Chow (Forbes) writes about all the advantages of cassava (yucca) cultivation in the Caribbean, including food security, nutrition, climate resilience, trade and economic development, energy, and more. Here are excerpts—read the full article at Forbes.

With regional production of 487,117 metric tons per year on a harvested area of 171,593 hectares, cassava— the fifth most important crop in the world— has a production base in every Caribbean country; yet growing the sector continues to be a highly recognized but under-capitalized opportunity. The strategic viability of a cassava-driven development plan is without question. Global cassava production outperforms most other staple crops, exceeding world population growth and registering an average annual growth rate of almost 4%.

In the Caribbean, the crop holds a great deal of potential. The Food and Agriculture Organization confirms that cassava is “an appropriate target for meeting goals of food security, equity, poverty alleviation, and environmental protection.”

The benefits are as follows:

Food Security

The Caribbean’s food import bill is expected to increase to US$8-10 billion by 2020, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, cassava can reduce this figure by at least 5%.

Cassava creates an import replacement opportunity for various food items including vegetarian meat alternatives, wheat flour, beer and animal feed. The market is certainly there— the region currently imports nearly 900,000 metric tons of wheat for flour, 420,000 metric tons of corn for feed and nearly 100,000 tons of malt per year.

Vegan chef, Taymer Mason, who is based in Barbados, uses cassava as the key ingredient in her True Root Meat. In Jamaica, Red Stripe, via its Project Grow initiative, has partnered with local cassava farmers to replace imported high-fructose corn syrup in its Red Stripe beers and is processing 100 tons per day at its cassava processing facility.

Nutrition

In the Caribbean, nearly 4 million children under the age of 5 are either overweight or obese and according to the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, only 8 of 20 CARICOM countries are on course to meet the World Health Organisation’s target of a 25% reduction in premature non-communicable disease mortality by 2025.

Cassava currently represents more than 2% of the world’s total caloric intake and in the tropics, it is the fourth most important source of energy (FAO). Cassava flour is a rich source of starch, which is the main source for carbohydrates and dietary fibre. The leaves contain flavonoids, saponins, essential oils, vitamin B17, vitamin C, phosphate, calcium, folic acid, chlorophyll, and magnesium, and are effective reducers of cholesterol, inflammation and infection. The cassava industry is strategically poised to target these populations and reverse these trends.

Climate Resilience

Cassava is a climate-smart crop. The plants are highly tolerant to poor growing conditions and can be cultivated in regions that suffer from poor soil, drought, floods and plant diseases. It can grow in conditions where annual rainfall is as low as 500mm or as high as 5,000mm and under the most extreme negative conditions it can still yield about 13 metric tons of tubers per hectare.

Cassava production also has a lower carbon footprint than the production of other foods. Plant-based foods generate 10x fewer greenhouse gas emissions than producing similar beef-based products (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology). [. . .]

For full article (and related items), see https://www.forbes.com/sites/daphneewingchow/2019/08/31/food-feed-and-fuel-cassava-is-the-caribbeans-diamond-in-the-rough/

Read more on the author at https://www.forbes.com/sites/daphneewingchow/#7aef9c7e641c

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