Ghana to refocus on cassava to transform economy

The Minister for Food and Agriculture, Mr Fiifi Fiavi Kwetey, has said government’s agenda to transform the economy through agriculture, would focus on placing great importance on the cassava value chain.

This, he said, was because cassava has great impact on the lives of the rural people, as well as having great potential for industrialization.

“Currently, government is considering a policy for high quality cassava flour for use in the food industry,” Mr Kwetey said, adding that “Government will continue to work with our local and international partners in addressing the challenges facing the cassava value chain”.

He was addressing about 150 participants at the opening of a three-day international conference and exhibition on cassava utilization and marketing, which opened in Accra.

The conference being organized by the Ghana Cassava Centre of Excellence (GCCE) in collaboration with the ministries of Food and Agriculture and Trade and Industry, is on the theme: “Cassava: An Economic Transformational Tool for Food Security and Poverty Alleviation”.

Mr Kwetey, who is also the Member of Parliament for the Ketu South Constituency, said Cassava was a major transformational crop, which could be a major game-changer in the national development agenda.

“Other countries such as Nigeria, Brazil and Thailand have developed the cassava value chain, which has impacted positively on the livelihood of the small-holder farmers and transformed their lives.

“Ghana currently is the third leading cassava producer in Africa and the sixth in the world,” he said, adding that irrespective of this feat cassava continues to be a crop that is despised and less respected in our economy.

Mr Kwetey said government had put together a cross sectoral team to develop a policy for it, which would go a long way to help open up the market for the poor small-holder farmers.

“We are seeing the participation of local and foreign firms using cassava and its derivatives in their production activities. We have had meetings with them and happy to say the Ministry is an active member of the cassava platform, which is made up of private and public sector institutions promoting the cassava value chain,” he said.

Dr Ekwow Spio-Gabrah, the Minister for Trade and Industry said cassava, which had in the past not received a lot of respect, now holds the potential for transforming the economy.

He said more than 45 per cent of the cassava goes to waste due to post harvest losses and if the right mechanisms were put in place “ this crop would sooner than later compete with Cocoa as the foreign income earners for Ghana”.

He said out of cassava items such as flour for bread, starch for industrial output, glucose and sweeteners for the confectioneries, and the chips could be used for animal feed with yet other parts for the brewing of beer.

Dr Spio-Gabarah said the focus now is to produce yields that would meet international standards, promising that government would facilitate the export processes.

Mr William Agyei, Executive Director of the Ghana Cassava Centre of Excellence, said Ghana continues to import lots of ethanol and starch for the pharmaceutical industry, “which could be procured cheaply in Ghana if proper attention is paid to the cassava value chain, which has become the income earners for some Asian and South American economies”.

Professor Emmanuel Victor Doku, who chaired the opening of the conference, said where cassava has gotten to in the world it is no longer the lowest commodity and Ghanaians need to realize that and give the product its status. GNA

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