Cassava value chain
Efforts by Red Stripe to develop a commercially viable cassava industry hold much promise for the creation of a value chain that could generate substantial benefits for Jamaica's economy, especially in the area of import substitution.
"The peel from the cassava, along with the fibre, when it is wet-extracted, is by itself a by-product that can help to grow animal production, metal ore (flocculation), paper (production), so you are looking at a significant value chain that can develop there," said Dr Damian Graham, Red Stripe's head of local raw material supply chain, at a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Wednesday, December 3.
According to Graham, the beer-making company's aim to substitute imported malt extract with starch derived from locally grown cassava in the beer-making process, by growing the tuber commercially for the first time on the island, will result in "a major shift from how agriculture has been done on the island since colonisation".
With "the commencement of a supply chain and the building of a value chain" from cassava, Graham said this will "touch the lives of people in Jamaica in a different way".
Currently, cassava is grown on a small scale in Jamaica, yielding between 18,000 and 21,000 metric tons annually. The tuber is mainly consumed fresh or used for making bammy, a type of bread that locals consume mostly with fish.
But with the development of a commercial cassava industry, the tuber can be used to make flour and syrup, the Red Stripe supply chain and brewing expert emphasised.
Already, he said dairy farmers to whom it normally supplies dried grains to feed their cattle, have approached the company to take the waste from the processing of cassava.
While not having a precise value of the worth of a cassava value chain, Graham, using international benchmarks, pointed to the substantial returns for the country from substituting corn imports for animal feed production with cassava by-products. Further, he said the starch produced by cassava could be used by bakeries in the making of breads and pastries, thereby reducing imports even more.
President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society Norman Grant is excited at the prospects for the local economy from the development of a cassava industry.
"It is a great move," he said, adding, "I see where cassava will be one of the emerging industries."
He added: "Our total domestic crop production is over 600,000 metric tons, I think we need to grow it to 800,000-900,000 metric tons, and cassava gives us a tremendous opportunity to do that."