Two weeks ago, I wrote what I then felt was a story of hope. Or, perhaps, what I then felt was the story that should be told.
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Strategic plan for T&T’s cassava
Between 2005 to 2009, T&T’s imports of staples averaged 236,700 tonnes at a value of almost $700 million annually. This represents 29 per cent of the country’s total food import bill. “This level of vulnerability is highly unacceptable as it leaves our nation highly susceptible to changes in price of staples internationally, which skyrockets our food inflation,” Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj said.
“Staples are very important to food and nutrition security throughout the world. Our food consumption patterns are based on dishes that encourage high consumption of wheat and value added products such as bread, roti and pastry,” he said. Maharaj said his ministry, through a Staples Commodity Team led by Nigel Grimes, is developing a Strategic Industry Development Plan for the cassava industry.
This plan will focus strategic promotion of cassava to increase markets and demand for that staple given its historically low consumption and the insignificant trade in cassava related products in T&T.
The minister said an important activity in strategic planning is determining the true cost of production for various farm sizes so that recommendations can be made to ensure more viable and profitable production systems. He said that will be a key factor in determining the success and sustainability of cassava production for farmers and the whole industry. “It is necessary to increase consumption of cassava by producing it at competitive points in relation to other substitute staples such as wheat, rice, and Irish potato,” Maharaj said.
He added that it is also important to determine, based on raw material costs, how to encourage creation of affordable value added products from cassava, such as bread, pastries and roti, with blends of cassava and wheat flour.” Maharaj said initiatives undertaken by his ministry have already had a significant impact on the production of staples. For cassava, yam and sweet potato there have been increases of 15.2 per cent , 52.2 per cent and 58.2 per cent respectively from 2012 to 2013.