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Experts call for value addition to cassava products

Some agricultural experts have suggested that new researches into cassava should focus more on ways to add value to cassava products to boost their export potential.
The experts, who met at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan , said that there was also the need to diversify the usage of cassava products locally and internationally.

A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), who was at the seminar, reports that the experts agreed that these developments would make cassava and its bye products remain relevant.

Ms Elizerbeth Parkes, a breeder with the Ghana-based Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Crop Research Institute, said the paradigm shift should be from cassava production to meeting target markets.
Parkes said that improved cassava production would help to improve standards of living of cassava farmers by tapping into high-value markets.
“Cassava has transformed from a poor man’s subsistence crop to an industrial one.
"What we need to do now is to find ways to move from just improving production and productivity to identifying and introducing specific traits that markets want," she said.

Parkes said that since the early 1970's, agricultural research centers of major cassava-producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa had released more than 200 improved varieties.

According to her, the utilisation of the crop has grown with the rise in demand for cassava-based products such as flour, ethanol, glucose and starch, among others, Dr. Alfred Dixon, IITA Cassava Breeder, advised other breeders to develop cassava varieties comparable in quality and cheaper than wheat flour.

"We are not only interested in putting food on farmers’ tables but also money in their pockets," he said.

The IITA chief advised that new programmes for cassava breeding should be more proactive in "heading-off pest and diseases".
"We need not wait until diseases become prominent before we work on them. Action must be taken at the first sign of an infection.

"Breeding programes must continue producing varieties that are better resistant to important diseases like the mosaic virus and cassava brown streak," she said.

Prof. Malachy Akoroda of the Department of Agronomy at the University of Ibadan, said that cassava was gaining prominence because of its unique qualities for poverty reduction.
He said that the cassava's drought resistance qualities stood it out among others, adding that the crop has the ability to mitigate the impact of climate change in Africa .
Akoroda said that cassava has numerous advantages and urged African governments to identify and tap these opportunities.
Farmers, on their part, identified the tuber's bulkiness and perish ability as two important aspects that breeding programmes needed to appraise.
The farmers said that the bulkiness had made easy evacuation impossible and was also responsible for the high cost of transportation from farm gates to processing outlets.

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