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Cassava Boost

BY the end of the year, sections of Barbados agricultural landscape will begin to undergo a significant transformation.

In light of the rising cost of oil and subsequent hikes in the price of animal feed, a concerted effort is on the way to find a home grown solution in the form of cassava, to be used as a substitute for corn, which is also fluctuating in price.

Word of this came from Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, who told the media yesterday that a whopping 3 000 acres of land would be needed to accomplish this long-term goal. However, he noted that by the end of the year, some projects will be off the ground. In the initial instance we are looking to target 20 per cent of the current amount of corn that we bring into the country, into cassava.

We have to have some ingredient that we control here, that we can use. So that we can control at least one aspect of the process. It goes back down to the whole question of food security, he said.

This topic will be high on the agenda of a symposium called The Development of Cassava as a Food and Export Crop and other uses to be held at the Sherbourne Conference Centre today, where the pros and cons of this large-scale endeavour will be thrashed out by experts and other stakeholders.

Paul revealed that there has been an increase in demand in root crops in Barbados and anticipates that the trend will continue. He noted that a promotion programme will be needed to sensitise persons about the benefits of cassava production.

The BAS head cautioned that this is not a straight-forward process since the production of cassava for the purpose of animal feed will not bring in top dollar for farmers.

We have to bring it to a price that makes it worthwhile for them and yet makes it worthwhile in order for them to go into the production of animal feed. That is the challenge and that is what we have to work out. If the price of corn keeps on increasing as it is right now, we still have a problem. He further explained that a mechanisation process for the planting and harvesting of cassava will be needed in order to keep prices down.

Cassava crops are harvested after eight months. At present approximately 1 000 acres are being used to produce cassava in Barbados.

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