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Cassava Becoming Mainstay Of Ghana’s GDP

Government will from next year ensure that the cultivation of cassava in the country is given a major boost to help address the challenges bedeviling the sector and help placed the Ghanaian economy on a sound footing.

The Minister for Environment and Science, Mrs. Shirley Aryeetey, disclosed this when delivering an address at a conference organized by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) last Friday.
The conference, which was under the theme “Improving Cassava Yields in Africa Drought-Prone-Environment”, was aimed at discussing how cassava yields can be improved in drought-prone environments like Africa.

She welcomed the idea of improving upon the production of the crop adding that “cassava has undergone transformation from being a resource poor farmer’s crop to industrial crop”.

The Minister, on that score, labeled the move as a “laudable idea because Cassava has contributed about 22% of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ever since it was introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th Century”.
“The improvement in the cultivation methods will help the nation to improve upon its food needs and also bring foreign exchange into the country,” she added.

The conference brought together researchers from advanced Agricultural Institutes and National Agricultural Researchers across the globe and was organized by the Centre under its Generation Challenge Program (GCP).
The GCP was created in 2003 with the aim of establishing a global network of partners from advanced agricultural institutes and national agricultural research programs to collectively work to improve crop productivity in drought-prone environments.

The partners, since the inception of the program have been able to work together to create public goods from the raw materials of plant genetic diversity and the advanced tools of genomics science for use in plant breeding programs.
Cassava as a crop, according to GCP, was introduced in the 16th Century by the Brazilian-Portuguese culture and has over the years become a major staple for Sub-Saharan Africa because of the many advantages gained from the crop.

The estimated worldwide production of cassava is about 300 million metric tons of fresh roots. The largest producers are Nigeria, Brazil, Congo (Zaire), Thailand, Indonesia and China. High domestic consumption of cassava in Nigeria, Congo and Brazil means their net exports is negligible.

Thailand and Indonesia are the largest suppliers of cassava chips into the world market covering about 80% and 10% of global exports respectively. In 1996 for example Thailand exported about 5 million tons of cassava products. In that same year, Ghana’s total production of fresh cassava was about 5 million tons. Local demand was 3 million tons, leaving a surplus of 2 million tons, which can yield about 700,000 tons of dry cassava products, like chips or starch.

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