GHANA - Ghana is the third leading cassava producer in Africa and sixth in the world, while commercialisation of the crop is nascent. Cassava holds the potential to help transform the economy.
According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana produces about 16 million metric tonnes of cassava; of which an estimated 11 million tonnes is available for human consumption.
However, only four million tonnes of the crop available for human consumption is 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.
Cassava items such as flour for bread, starch for industrial output, glucose and sweeteners for confectioneries, and chips can be used for animal feed while the other parts are suitable brewing beer.
Minister of Food and Agriculture Mr. Fifi Kwetey, 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.
This, he said, is because 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 seek 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,” Mr. Kwetey said.
Mr. Cyril Ugwa of The Sustainable Trade said the estimated addressable demand for cassava will be worth US$20million by 2020.
He said global trading of cassava has increases by 10 percent over the last five years.
Mr. Ugwa said 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 US$34million 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 him, 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 US$2.4billion 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 request.
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.
He said despite the poor yields of cassava, its potential to boost the Ghanaian economy should not be underestimated, and called on the Agriculture Ministry to speed up the policy on HQCF.
Dr. Tay said finalisation of the policy is long overdue.
Mr. Seth Dei, Founder of Blue Skies Company, said it is time to turn attention to cassava because it is no longer the lowest commodity, and Ghanaians need to take advantage of its benefits.