Sun | Feb 18, 2018

Lessons on cassava flour

Published:Saturday | August 6, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I refer to an article published in Sunday's Gleaner dated July 31 under the heading, 'High expectations for UWI's agricultural research and innovation facility'. I wish to bring to your attention that this concept with regards to processing cassava to make flour is not new.

My late husband, Donald Evans, was a consultant food technologist who worked with General Foods in England before returning to Jamaica. He accepted a job with the Food Technology Department at the Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation (JIDC) in 1967 until it closed its doors 1977. It was then under the umbrella of trade and industry headed by Robert Lightbourne.

The Food Technology Department was engaged in research and development, and my husband developed several formulas, one of which was cassava flour. This product was introduced to the Bakers' Association in order to reduce the importation of baking flour. Several tests were done as to how to blend the flour, as well as improve the shelf life. Samples of bread and biscuits were distributed for testing.

As a result of the feedback, the Government constructed a factory in Goshen, St Elizabeth, to do the processing of the cassava. A piece of sophisticated equipment was bought that could process more than 40,000lb of tubers in one week. Over time, there was an accumulation of flour because the Government had committed itself to the farmers to plant the tubers. However, the Bakers' Association was reluctant to buy the flour and it went to waste. There was a substantial loss to the Government, as well as to the farmers.

After the closure of JIDC, my husband set up a factory where he processed cassava to make farina for export. This product was exhibited at the Denbigh Agricultural Show annually.

As a result of the foregoing, those who are excited about this project are to do their research carefully. Pricing and a secured markets are vital. The work that is being done is commendable, but I would like the agricultural researchers to learn from history.