Ghana’s Minister for Food and Agriculture, Mr. Fifi Kwetey, has said that Ghana’s cassava holds the potential to help transform the country’s economy.
Ghana is the third leading cassava producer in Africa and sixth in the world, while commercialization of the crop is nascent.
Kwetey, who was speaking at the inauguration of the Ghana Industrial Cassava Stakeholders Platform (GICSP) in Accra, said government’s agenda to transform the economy through agriculture will focus on the cassava value chain. According to him, Ghana produces about 16 million metric tonnes of cassava; of which an estimated 11 million tonnes are available for human consumption.
However, he said only four million tonnes of the crop available for human consumption are eaten, leaving more than seven million tonnes as surplus; but with the right mechanisms, the crop will sooner rather than later compete with cocoa as the main foreign income earner for Ghana. He said 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, he said, seeks to develop cassava as an industrial crop, address challenges and pursue opportunities in the Ghanaian industrial value chain.
“The government is considering a policy for high-quality cassava flour to use in the food industry,” Kwetey said.
Mr. Cyril Ugwa of The Sustainable Trade said the estimated addressable demand for cassava will be worth $20 million by 2020.
Ugwa said global trading of cassava has increased by 10 percent over the last five years, stressing that 57 percent of Ghanaian farmers are cassava farmers, but only one percent of their produce is for commercial purposes.
According to him, Ghana stands a chance of gaining $34 million savings from not importing wheat, ethanol and starch — and hence appealed for government to provide a local content policy that protects the interest of indigenous companies which produce ethanol and starch.
Mr. Kodwo Ahlijah, Chairman of GICSP, said a huge market opportunity exists for Ghana to produce cassava starch, ethanol or High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF).
According to the Chairman of GICSP, as at 2014, Ghana’s arable land which has not been cultivated stood at 6.3 million hectares; adding that if 500,000 hectares of these lands are cultivated to support processing plants it can generate $2.4 billion annually.
He called for a fully funded cassava research institute to breed industrial cassava with high starch content of not less than 25 percent, and the establishment of a Cassava Development Board to oversee the consideration and handling of these requests.
Dr. Nanam Tay, Director of the Food Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, highlighted the need to drive and sustain the platform for desired results and called on the Agriculture Ministry to speed up the policy on HQCF whose finalisation is long overdue.
Mr. Seth Dei, Founder of Blue Skies Company, said it’s a clarion call to turn attention to cassava because it is no longer the lowest commodity, and Ghanaians need to take advantage of its benefits.
Source: Footprint to Africa