It is hoped that the cassava industry

The Office of Private Sector Relations (OPSR) recently concluded discussions with the Vige community aimed at the revitalization of the cassava industry as part of the Strengthening Trade through Rural Investments and Development of Entrepreneurship (STRIDE) programme launched on February 3, 2010 under the component; Promoting Sustainable Livelihoods in Poverty Stricken Areas.

Located immediately north of Vieux Fort, Vige has been identified in the most recent census as one of the communities in St Lucia with high poverty levels, endemic unemployment and a declining population as residents migrate to other communities in search of a better standard of living. In light of this situation, the OPSR has incorporated Vige into the STRIDE programme, making them a priority area for development.

The overall objective of the Vige project is to stimulate increased production of competitive export products to aid the community in alleviating poverty and becoming more self sustaining. The use of cassava production has been identified for Vige due to their history of successful production in this industry.

The OPSR’s input will assist the community to improve their business skills, enabling the community to take the cassava production to a new level.

The input of new technically advanced systems for cassava planting, coupled with training and support to the youth in areas of accounting, marketing, computers and general business management skills will create the right environment for cassava production and agro processing to become a viable business capable of sustaining the community of Vige.

An additional component of the project includes the agro processing of various local produce to create market ready products such as jams, jellies, etc. which will be incorporated into the overall community programme for those who are no longer interested or capable of producing the cassava.

Commenting at the community meeting on March 17, 2010 Ms Kaygiana Toussaint, President of the Vigie Community Development Group stated that “this type of intervention is really critical for the community at this time.

“Our community is a small one with limited resources and we need help to take advantage of those resources so that we can grow and develop ourselves, our family and our community. She further stated that “we look forward to working with the OPSR and incorporating our ideas in the development of the project and are very pleased with the OPSR’s collaborative approach.”

According to the OPSR project coordinator, responsible for the Vigie Project Mr Anthony John, “The OPSR estimates that this project will stimulate growth in the community of Vige thereby contributing to: poverty reduction, the creation of a first class environment for business growth and development; enhancing the communities’ contribution to the national economy, and engaging the youth.”

He further states that “The OPSR is very excited about the opportunities for Vigie and look forward to working with the community for the benefit of all.”

The Vige project epitomizes the overall mission and objectives of the OPSR which are To assist in the creation and sustaining of a strong business environment; To facilitate the development of the requisite human resource capabilities and to provide support for enhancing business competiveness.

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DA-12 gives incentives to cassava farmers

The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Southwestern Mindanao (Region 12) has launched a new incentive scheme in a bid to lure more farmers in the region to venture into cassava production.

Tommy Ala, DA Region 12 executive director, said in a statement they are currently offering local cassava producers the opportunity of availing cassava chipper and granulator equipment should they embark into commercial production of cassava.

Ala said the incentive scheme is being implemented by the agency through its flagship Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) Corn Program, which covers the strengthening of various support services for the commercial production of cassava in the country.

Under the program, Ala said cassava producers in the region may qualify to avail of the production incentives if they have an existing production area of at least 100 hectares, a warehouse and a dryer.

He said at least three cassava producers based in South Cotabato have already availed of the production incentives after completing some program requirements.

The initial beneficiaries were a cassava assembler based in Norala town, the local government of Tampakan and the Central Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CEMIARC) in Tupi town.

The beneficiaries received a cassava chipper and granulator that is presently worth at least P60,000 to P80,000 in the markets.

Ala said the cassava chipper has a capacity of chipping 200 kilograms of cassava per hour while the granulator can process at least 300 kilograms on an hourly basis.

Last year, corporate giant San Miguel Corp. signified to develop some 20,000 hectares of cassava production areas in the region, which it earlier identified as among the suitable areas for the commercial production of the crop.

Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

In Region 12, cassava produce are processed for food and industrial purposes like flour, starch and feeds.

Ala said they initially signed a partnership agreement with San Miguel, which reportedly offered to provide a ready market for cassava produce from the area.

DA has been specifically promoting the planting of the high-yielding KU-50 cassava variety, which could produce 40 to 50 metric tons (MT) per hectare.

Region 12 currently produces some 17,000 MT of cassava annually, at least 15,000 MT of which are from South Cotabato province.

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Cassava Processing in Oyo

The Government of Japan yesterday approved a grant of US$ 97,023 for cassava processing project to Ifeledun Cassava Processing Cooperative Investments and Credit Society in Oyo town, Oyo State.

The component to be provided through the grant include: Cassava processing equipment, three graters, one flash drier, one hammer mill and one borehole with a water tank.

Presenting the grant to the beneficiaries in Abuja, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Japan in Nigeria, Mr Shigeru Hamano,said the grant which is under the Japanese Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) is to improve cassava processing in Oyo state.

He said the project is also to support the United National Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Nigeria, adding that it hoped the project will contribute to community development.

Since independence, the Japanese assistance to Nigeria has amounted to about US4.2 billion (about 600 billion naira).

Under the GGP, 107 projects with a total amount of US$5,838,045 have been implemented throughout Nigeria since 1998.

Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, Mrs Grace A Alade thanked the donors and promised to work seriously to make sure that the real objective of the grant is achieved.

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Cassava cheese delicious taste...

In the old time, cassava was just a suburban food. It’s not modern. But now, it goes a level up. Urban people are getting familiar with this carbohydrate tuber.

Riyanto (35) manages cassava to become a modern kind of food. He sells cheese cassava on Jl Cawang Baru, East Jakarta.

Riyanto is skilled enough to change cassava to be delicious snacks which can be tasted by all kind of people. He just gives simple combination: fried cassava with cheese and milk. The cassava looks like high-class food. He sells it Rp 6,000 per portion.

Riyanto shared the info; after being fried, the cassava is added with cheese and creamy milk.

Cheese cassava has a unique taste. Cheese gives tasty sensation and milk gives sweet flavor to the fired cassava.

Buyers can choose their own flavor. If they want sweet cassava, they can get fried cassava with only milk topping. They can get tastier sensation if they add milk and cheese. “But if they just want fried cassava with cheese, its okay,” said Riyanto, a man from Sumedang, West Java.

“In addition to delicious taste, cassava contains much carbohydrate. It can be a substitute for basic food and add energy,” he said. His turnover is Rp 300 thousand per day.

He has started the business since three years ago on Jl Cawang Baru, East Jakarta. And he never moves.

His customers often buy his fried cheese cassava in many portions.

For your information, cheese cassava has been spread in Jakarta Capital City since 2005. Usually cheese cassava business is sold in franchise system, there is a profit sharing. There are hundreds of cheese cassava traders in Jakarta Capital City.

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Role in boosting cassava

The Minister of Internal Security, Sheikh Mussa Fazil Harerimana, has hailed convicts serving their sentences under TIG, for their role in boosting cassava production in Mayange sector, Bugesera district.

The Minister made the comments last week while inspecting 600 hectares of cassava plantations planted by the convicts.

Addressing local leaders and TIG officials at Mayange, Harerimana reiterated the importance of involving inmates in agriculture production.

"I thank all of you who have helped in these activities what is seen here speaks volumes," he said.

"Cassava is very important for the district as studies have shown it will check hunger. TIG at the same time has helped the people serving their sentences to acquire life skills."

He added that evidence on the ground shows that TIG has had tremendous impact on economic growth.

In order to improve production, the Minister promised to avail Bugesera residents with a hybrid type of cassava and a processing mill.Harerimana, who later briefed reporters, stressed that TIG has been instrumental in rehabilitating inmates.

On the alleged corruption among some TIG officials, he requested the public to act as a whistle blower.

Alphonse Mpazimaka, the area TIG official said that apart from agricultural activities, the convicts are also engaged in brick making.

He, however, noted that there were cases of convicts who escape before completing their sentences

"TIG has increased production in many fields especially agriculture, which is the main activity in this area. The only problem we have is that a few of them escape," he said.

In Bugesera district alone, there are 1295 convicts serving under TIG.

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New cassava varieties

Several new cassava varieties are currently being evaluated in Region Nine to determine other uses for the tuber to add value and boost hinterland agriculture.

Director of the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Dr Oudho Homenauth said too government had recently disbursed mechanical graters and presses to several hinterland communities in regions one and nine in order to achieve this goal.

In April, NARI started using cassava as a source of feed for poultry after an experimental product was sent to the US for testing to determine its nutritional value, a press release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) said. The cassava including the skin was sliced into thin pieces and sun dried which will cause it to break easily, and then grounded into flour. The flour can then be used as a substitute for corn and rice.

GINA said a workshop was also held to implement a strategy to start a cassava enterprise and industry development.

The initiative is intended to diversify commodities aimed at improving income, livelihood and reduce income vulnerability, benefiting small farmers especially in the commodity chain.

It is based on an agriculture commodities programme that was launched in Jamaica and is part of a joint venture by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. NARI is also working with Bounty Farm, its private sector partner in this venture.

GINA also said government has joined CLAYUCA, a Latin American and Caribbean Consortium for cassava based in Cali, Colombia in order to benefit from technical and other assistance on this venture.

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BioCassava Plus

Dr. Richard Sayre, director of the Enterprise Rent-a-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels and principal investigator of the BioCassava Plus program at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, will be a guest on a live broadcast of NPR’s “Science Friday.”

Sayre will join host Ira Flatow to discuss bio-fortified crops, from technologies in the pipeline to ones being tested in Africa today.

BioCassava Plus is a team of scientists whose objective is to reduce malnutrition by delivering improved cassava cultivars that provide complete and balanced nutrition in readily marketable and higher yielding food crop.

The Danforth Center recently won a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to develop a virus-resistant cassava, a root crop. Cassava serves as the primary food source for more than 750 million people each day.

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a nonprofit research institute in Creve Coeur that focuses on human health and agricultural production.

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Cassava a reliable food, cash crop in these hot, dry times

CASTILLA, Sorsogon—Called in Bicol as kamoteng-kahoy or balinghoy, the lowly cassava (Manihot escidenta) is one crop in the region that needs attention because of its importance as a cash crop that is resistant to drought and helpful against the impacts of climate change. Because of these positives, production of this edible root needs a huge boost, not only in the region but in the entire country, as well.

Mainly grown for its tubers which are a rich source of carbohydrates, cassava is also a good source of calcium and ascorbic acid. Its food uses include confectionaries, sago, vegetables, food seasoning, noodles, flour and native pastries like cassave cake, suman and bibingka.

Although not a staple food of Filipinos, cassava feeds about 800 million people around the world, according to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Another important product is cassava starch, known in the world trade as tapioca flour, which is extracted from the tuber and used by a wide variety of industries—food, pharmaceutical, paper, adhesive, textile, mining and other manufacturing industries.

In the food industry alone, studies show that cassava flour can substitute for wheat flour in baked products as much as 10 percent in bread and higher in other baked products. It is utilized as thickener for soups, baby food, sauces and gravies.

Cassava flour is an excellent filler that could supplement the solid contents of ice cream. It is also a good binder for sausages and other processed-meat products to prevent these from drying up during cooking.

Its use as a livestock feed in the country has also been investigated. Studies at the University of the Philippines at Los BaƱos (UPLB) have shown that cassava meal can be used as a substitute for feed grains in compounded animal rations, while cassava leaf meal contains at least 20-percent protein.

Cassava can also be a good solution to the problems of climate change and fuel shortage. In China, Thailand and Brazil, cassava is becoming an important biofuel crop. A feasibility study has found that cassava has a very high starch-to-sugar conversion ratio, which means that a high percentage of sugar can be converted from it which, in turn, is needed to produce biofuel.

Cassava can also help control erosion.

“Farmers can grow cassava and control— even prevent—hillside erosion by following simple methods,” Agribusiness Week, a regular Internet publication, quoted Dr. Mabrouke Elsharkawy, CIAT cassava physiologist, as saying.

This can only be attained if farmers shift their method of farming to minimum or no tillage, “and protect the soil with live, permanent mulch like a forage legume, while farmers can also fertilize cassava to make it grow faster, and to cover and protect the soil from rain,” he was quoted as saying.

Being an easy-to-grow crop, cassava grows well on poor soils found on eroded hillsides because it resists adverse conditions such as drought. “When farmers can’t grow corn or beans in depleted soils, cassava is their only choice,” Elsharkawy added.

“In Castilla, a municipality known as a leading producer of this root crop in the Bicol region, we are aware of benefits we can derive from cassava. The problem this time is the market and the absence of technology for us to be able to maximize its uses,” Vice Mayor Alwin Talde told the BusinessMirror last week.

The municipality has around 20,000 hectares available for cassava plantations and, in fact, Talde said, the municipal government under then-mayor Renato Laurinaria, now the provincial vice governor, initiated about five years ago a plantation-scale production under its Cassava 20/20 program which significantly improved the productivity and earnings of farmers.

Under the program, the municipal government provided planting materials of high-breed cassava varieties, acquired a farm tractor used for land preparations and contracted B-Meg Feeds of San Miguel Corp. as a buyer of the crop used for livestock feed production.

“Unfortunately, the program was not pursued by the administration that replaced Laurinaria after the 2007 elections,” Talde said.

Laurinaria said cassava is best grown in deep soil with friable structure such as light sandy loams of medium fertility and successful use of almost all soil types is possible, provided that they are not waterlogged, shallow or stony.

Growing cassava, he said, entails simple farm operations such as land preparation, planting, replanting, weeding, fertilization, irrigation and harvesting. Plantation type of production needs 55 man-days per hectare to undertake all the necessary farm operations.

It will also be useful to follow the information bulletin jointly produced by The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development and UPLB’s Institute of Plant Breeding for a successful cassava production like what Cassava 20/20 has initially achieved, the vice governor said.

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Agencies unite to boost cassava production

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is partnering with Ehka Agro Farms Limited, a cassava glucose processing farm to empower cassava farmers to increase their yield for both commercial and industrial purposes.

The agency, also working with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), provided a thousand-hectare worth of cassava stems to farmers last year through private public partnership, and supported the processing farm with more raw materials to help the company run on full capacity.

Robin Sanders, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, during a visit to the Ekha Agro Farms in Ogun state on Tuesday, said the collaboration shows how private-public partnership between the U.S. Government and Nigeria is boosting the nation's food security.

The partnership
Ms Sanders argued that with more of such partnerships, the private sector has the power to transform the agriculture industry not only by enhancing food security but also increasing farmers' income.

"It is important that the farmers improve on their activities and their yield in order to enhance their income and provide more food security for the country as this is one of the means through which the country can acquire its dream of food security.

"USAID is ready to help the farmers increase more of their yields and generate more income opportunities than their effort last year because we are willing to expand our activities with the farmers by providing more cassava stems to the farmers.

"This will also encourage the supply to the plant by allowing them have a steady and stable source of raw material to increase their production capacity," Ms Sanders said.

Even though Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world, the crop is rarely used in higher-value commercial food processing as most of it is processed for local food consumption or export.

Sam Osarenkhoe, Managing Director Ekha Agro farms, said the glucose company started operations in 1990 with the importation and sale of feeds and food additives such as amino acids, vitamins and sweeteners before diversifying into the production of glucose syrup using cassava as a major substrate for value addition and economic growth.

"We deviated to producing glucose locally because we realised that there is a local market for it and our dream is to establish a profitable cassava-based glucose syrup factory that will enhance human development and promote economic growth in the host communities."

Business challenges
However, the shortage of cassava tuber is a major setback hampering the plant's optimum capacity operations.

Yemisi Iranloye, the Executive Director Ekha Agro Farms, added that, "Though at the start there were various other challenges such as the availability of water and power supply as well as marketing. We have been able to overcome most of these problems except those relating to farming, cultivation, harvesting and the market but we are gradually stabilising and solving the problems.

"That is where USAID (markets) comes in and they have been helping us get supply for the raw materials by creating a platform for further investments to meet the demand for the product. We use about 15-20 trucks of cassavas every day for production and we are not yet operating at full capacity," she added.

Ms. Iranloye said the meeting between the ambassador and the farmers will encourage them to cultivate more, as the US agency is planning to assist the farmers cultivate 3,000 hectares this year to make the factory run nonstop and also supply to the end users.

"Right now the company is operating at less than 10 percent capacity and we are hoping that by 2011, after the 3,000 cassava hectares have been harvested we should be producing at about 75 percent capacity," she said.

The company which was originally designed to run on gas is presently been run on 24 hours self generated power supply using diesel, although the use of gas will reduce production costs by 20 to 25 percent.

The factory
Mr. Osarenkhoe said the ultra modern factory was completed at the cost of N3.4 billion in 2007. The project was funded by the Bank of Industry and the Nigerian Export Import (NEXIM) Bank with additional funding from some domestic banks including Zenith Bank, Intercontinental Bank and the Nigeria Agricultural Rural Cooperative Development Bank Ltd.

Ms. Sanders said the U.S. mission in Nigeria will continue to support economic growth, particularly in agriculture, which dovetails with the federal government's objective to ensure food security and reduce poverty among the people.

Ms. Sander said the Ekha Agro-USAID partnership is a successful example of American promotion of commercial agriculture in Nigeria through maximizing agriculture revenue and key enterprise for target site (markets) programme.

Farmers respond

Olaosun Comfort, President, Cassava Growers and Processing Association, Osun State chapter, while commending the collaboration which encourages farmers to cultivate more through the provision of better variety stems, however, identified finance as a major challenge for pre and post cultivation activities. He said most of these activities are still done manually due to lack of funds.

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Cassava wilt hits Bugiri

Cassava wilt disease has destroyed over 21 hectares of cassava plantations in the district. Farmers in Bulidha, Banda and Buluguyi sub-counties said the disease dries up the leaves and stems.

According to a farmer of Banda, Joshua Kitakule, four hectares of his cassava plantation had been destroyed by the wilt in the past two weeks.

The district agricultural officer, Suliman Kaisuka, said efforts were underway to sensitise farmers about the disease. He said they were trying to establish the number of plantations affected by the disease and find a solution.

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Bio-Fuel Ethanol Refinery

Lagos — Governor Segun Oni of Ekiti state has Saturday laid the foundation stone of a N3.5 billion, about ($23.4million) integrated cassava-based bio-fuel ethanol refinery in Ipao-Ekiti in Ikole Council Area of the state.

The refinery which is billed to be completed in 22 months, is to produce 30,000 metric tonnes of bio-fuel annually.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the project is to be managed under the Public Private Partnership Initiative (PPP)by FL Engineering Incorporated, a Chinese firm.

Speaking on the occasion, Governor Segun Oni who commended the Chinese investors for choosing the state, expressed the hope that Ekiti State would soon be the headquarters of bio-fuel in Africa.

Oni noted that the project was one of the PPP initiatives of the government aimed at attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) for the rapid economic development of the state.

The Governor noted that the project would provide employment opportunities for scores of the indigenes of the state and boost the economic activities of the hosting communities.

While promising that the government would make available 15,000 hectares of land for the project, Oni also assured that the government would construct a dam and access road to the project site.

He said, "our focus is to make Ekiti State the headquarters of bio-energy in Africa with production from cassava ethanol and sorghum".

The governor sought the cooperation of the host community towards the success of the project and expressed the hope that "this project will make this community one of the most economic viable in Ekiti and Nigeria at large".

Also speaking, the President of the firm, Engineer Daniel Lee explained that the company would produce bio-fuel which would combine the production of petrol, diesel and jet fuel through ethanol from cassava.

Lee, who described the refinery as self-sufficient, said that the by-products from cassava would also be used to produce other products such as carbon dioxide, organic fertiliser and insecticides, among others.

The leader of the Chinese partner said that the refinery would commence production of bio-fuel in the next 22 months.

"Our hope is that within the next 22 months, this refinery which the foundation is being laid today would commence the production of bio-fuel thereby making Ekiti State one of the oil producing states in Nigeria.

"The refinery has the capacity of producing 30,000 metric tonnes of bio-fuel per annum with dependence on cassava ethanol as its raw materials and it will create over 1,000 jobs.

"We are going to combine this project into one so that can start the production of petrol, diesel and jet fuel and it is our dream to ensure that we make this dream a reality," he said.

Lee assured the governor that the company would do its best to ensure the success of the project.

"We will transport our technology from China to the state to improve on cassava farming and we need the support of the local people for this effort" Lee said.

Earlier the traditional ruler of the community, the Obanla of Ipao-Ekiti, Oba Joseph Aina assured the investors of the community's cooperation to ensure the successful operation of the refinery in the area.

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Rice is not irreplaceable

The government should be aware that there is more than just one source of carbohydrate in the diet of Indonesians, activists said Wednesday.

Tini Sastra from NGO Solidaritas Perempuan (Women's Solidarity) said the government and the media had been focusing on rice as Indonesians' staple food for too long, despite the fact there are some people in regions that consume other sources of carbohydrate, such as corn and cassava.

"There is a tendency to portray food such as cassava and sago as food for the poor and malnourished, while people in certain regions actually eat these foods and are in fact healthy," she said.

She added that Soeharto's New Order regime had shaped the image of rice as a food for the priyayi or upper class, especially by giving rice subsidies to civil servants across the country, regardless of whether their staple food was rice.

Tini said that there had been a massive effort to enforce rice farming in various areas in Indonesia in the New Order era, as part of the "green revolution" - an agriculture method featuring the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to boost crop yield.

The prioritizing of rice over other carbohydrate sources is still prevalent now, despite talks of food diversification, she said.

The government would rather import rice than utilize available alternative crops, Tini added.

Last year, the government signed an extension of an MoU on rice imports from Vietnam despite forecasts of a rice surplus and a record national rice surplus in 2008 of 2.34 million tons.

Mustafa Abubakar, the then head of state-owned logistics company Bulog, said the MoU's extension served as a preventive measure.

In the same year, he said, Bulog distributed rice for the poor to 42 percent or 7.5 million of the 18.5 million poor people in Indonesia.

Tini cited 2008 data from the Central Statistics Agency, which showed that the country produced 32 million tons of rice, 19 million tons of corn and 13 million tons of cassava that year.

"This shows there are still many people who consume other types of food apart from rice," she said.

However, rice still triumphs with 60 percent of the population favoring it, Tini added.

Nutrition expert Soekirman said there was only minor disparity between rice and other staple food in terms of nutritional benefits, and hardly any between rice and corn.

"Rice and corn contain protein while other carbohydrate sources, such as sago, cassava and sweet potatoes, don't. But they are roughly equal as sources of energy and calories," he said.

Soekirman added that the ideal diet should include variety by diversifying staple food.

"It's good if people eat rice, cassava and other sources of carbohydrate alternatively," he said.

Bulog president director Sutarto Alimoeso said Bulog was open to the idea of staple foods other than rice being distributed across the country.

"Bulog acts based on orders, so if the government asks us to distribute rice for the poor, we distribute rice. If the government wishes to combine the food *with other staple foods*, then we do so accordingly," Sutarto told The Jakarta Post via telephone.

He added that currently, Bulog distributes rice even to regions where it is not a staple food.

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Staple foods other...

Indonesia should return to locally produced staple foods other than rice, to improve the country’s food security, activists say.

“There is a growing idea that staple foods other than rice, such as cassava and corn, are ‘poor people’s foods’, when in fact people in some regions have been been consuming these foods for a long time," Tini Sastra from Solidaritas Perempuan said in South Jakarta on Wednesday.

Indonesia’s dependence on rice made it vulnerable to food crises and meant it had to import stocks when local supplies were short.

“The government … distributes rice for the poor even in regions where the staple food is not rice, thus increasing rice dependency," she said.

Tini cited 2008 data from the Central Statistics Agency, which shows that Indonesia produced 32 million tons of rice, 19 million tons of corn, and 13 million tons of cassava that year.

“This means that while rice is the staple food for the majority of the population, other sources of carbohydrate are still consumed by many," she said.

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According to Debra Roberts, head of environmental planning and climate protection for eThekwini, a key part of the effort is looking at alternative staple crops for the area, including wheat, dry beans, pumpkins, madumbies (a type of yam), cassava and sorghum.

Roberts said dry-land maize productivity is expected to be so seriously hit by climate change that estimates suggest production will nearly disappear sometime between 2045 and 2065.

That prediction, combined with large population growth and low economic growth, threatens disaster for many southern African countries unless changes are made.

Efforts by farmers on their own to choose alternative crops or more suitable maize varieties are not always effective, Roberts said, and the dangers of hunger and food insecurity in the region are growing.

"Poor farmers often have to gamble when deciding what might be better crops to shift to," she said. "In this part of the world, where rainfall patterns and cyclical dry spells are becoming increasingly unpredictable and extreme, even the 'common farming sense' of swapping from one crop to another to find a successful one can backfire."

Crucially, the eThekwini project involves testing how well people like alternative staple crops, and then making recommendation for commercial production of those that are both drought-resistant and considered tasty.

In a November 2009 "Cook Off," residents were able to taste-test many of the newly introduced foods, including sweet potato soup, imfino (pumpkin leaves), sweet potato chips, pumpkin juice, cassava chips, pumpkin slices, cassava bread, roasted pumpkin seeds, fufu, sorghum bread and madumbe soup.

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Proteome characterization of cassava

Proteomics is increasingly becoming an important tool for the study of many different aspects of plant functions, such as investigating the molecular processes underlying in plant physiology, development, differentiation and their interaction with the environments. To investigate the cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) proteome, we extracted proteins from somatic embryos, plantlets and tuberous roots of cultivar SC8 and separated them by sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE).

Results: Analysis by liquid chromatography-electrospray ionisation-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS/MS) yielded a total of 383 proteins including isoforms, classified into 14 functional groups.

The majority of these were carbohydrate and energy metabolism associated proteins (27.2%), followed by those involved in protein biosynthesis (14.4%). Subsequent analysis has revealed that 54, 59, 74 and 102 identified proteins are unique to the somatic embryos, shoots, adventitious roots and tuberous roots, respectively.

Some of these proteins may serve as signatures for the physiological and developmental stages of somatic embryos, shoots, adventitious roots and tuberous root. Western blotting results have shown high expression levels of Rubisco in shoots and its absence in the somatic embryos.

In addition, high-level expression of alpha-tubulin was found in tuberous roots, and a low-level one in somatic embryos. This extensive study effectively provides a huge data set of dynamic protein-related information to better understand the molecular basis underlying cassava growth, development, and physiological functions.

Conclusion: This work paves the way towards a comprehensive, system-wide analysis of the cassava.

Integration with transcriptomics, metabolomics and other large scale -omics data with systems biology approaches can open new avenues towards engineering cassava to enhance yields, improve nutritional value and overcome the problem of post-harvest physiological deterioration.

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Pests devastate cassava

Thailand's cassava output is expected to decline by anywhere between 36% and 50% this year because of severe pest and disease outbreaks in plantations across the country.

The Office of Agricultural Economics (OAE) has reduced its cassava output forecast for the 2009-10 crop to only 23 million tonnes, much lower than 29 million in an earlier projection, said Apichart Jongskul, the OAE secretary-general.

The private sector painted a gloomier picture, predicting annual production could fall to as low as 20 million tonnes if no swift action is taken to prevent pest and disease outbreaks.

Latest figures show that a mealybug infestation has spread in 27 provinces covering 600,000 to 700,000 rai of plantation areas out of a total of 7.78 million.

Mr Apichart said the government might need to eradicate plants that are one to four months old months old to eradicate the pests covering around 100,000 rai. As well, he said, authorities may need to set aside additional funds to compensate farmers.

The infestation would definitely affect the tapioca and related industries, particularly paper and ethanol producers that use tapioca as raw materials.

The tapioca industry is estimated to be worth 170 billion baht including 70 billion baht for chips and starch, and 100 billion from related industries that use tapioca as raw materials.

The Tapioca Policy Committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwankhiri yesterday directed a working panel to work closely with related agencies to map out an action plan to address the problems.

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