The Barbados Agricultural Development Marketing Corporation (BADMC) has invested well over $30 000 in the development of the local cassava industry and value chain, and there are plans on stream to do even more.
Ann-Marie King, Divisional Head, Agribusiness at the BADMC, disclosed that they are hoping to soon have a cassava mill established in the country, to address the limitations that will likely be faced as it relates to the supply of grated cassava. She said it is a project that Chief Executive Officer, Shawn Tudor is working on assiduously. King noted that once the proposed mill comes to fruition, it will present new opportunities for food manufacturers to get cassava flour at a price that is economical.
She was speaking during a recent interview with The Barbados Advocate as she expressed the Corporation’s commitment to finding new and exciting ways to get Barbadians to utilise indigenous produce. With that in mind, she said they are fully supportive of the direction that those spearheading the cassava value chain programme have gone, and will continue to support those efforts with their product innovation work.
King indicated that if all goes to plan, the mill would allow food manufacturers to produce more nutritious, healthier products for Barbadians as well as for the export market. But, she explained that in order to go to that level, structural changes would have to be made to the way cassava is cultivated and marketed here in Barbados. With that in mind, she gave the assurance that the BADMC is looking forward to doing their part to expand the industry well beyond its current state.
King also indicated that the Corporation is working closely with the farming community to meet the demand for cassava as it continues to grow. The Agribusiness Divisional Head explained that they are working with individual farmers and are hoping ultimately to improve their cultivation methods, and help farmers to learn how to replant their fields quickly and efficiently.
“That work has begun and it is our hope that we can expand that over time with farmers who really understand the opportunity and are willing to really open themselves up to go beyond merely a farmer making a living, to being a true agropreneur,” she said.
She added, “We are very focused on food innovation here at BADMC as well as delivering on our mandate to catalyse agribusiness enterprise here in Barbados. We see a huge opportunity for all agro-processors, farmers etc, because we are actually building new linkages and new strategic partnerships and new value chains for the food that is produced by farmers here in Barbados, straight through to the consumer.”
Indeed, she said one of the reasons why the BADMC spent time innovating new food products from cassava is because they recognise that Barbadians’ taste have changed and we are now more of a convenience-driven society. Admittedly, she said for many people cassava is an acquired taste, particularly for younger palates, and so innovative cassava products are the best way to pique the public’s interest.
Her comments came as she referred again to the cassava value chain project here in Barbados, the focus of which has been cassava blended bread made from grated cassava, which is being facilitated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, BADMC and the Ministry of Agriculture among others. As efforts are made to expand that initiative, King said given that they do not know how quickly the demand for grated cassava will grow, they are looking to ensure that the production capacity and storage capacity for grated cassava are enough.
“Our work with regards to this project has primarily been to provide grated cassava, but BADMC has taken the opportunity to innovate a number of new products utilising cassava flour. We have created some unique products particularly our cassava colada sorbet, we have innovated new cookies and a cassava cheesecake which has a sweet potato and cassava crust, so it is completely gluten free. We took the opportunity to capitalise on the focus on cassava and bring those things to market,” she stated. (JRT)