Wednesday | October 24, 2001

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Farmers urged to plant cassava

WITH MORE bammy factories in operation and the introduction of new cassava products, more farmers are being urged to begin cultivating the tuber.

Carmen Edwards, senior social services/home economics officer at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), says the Authority's Twickenham Industries bammy factory in St. Catherine tended to experience a shortage of cassava between October and December.

Explaining the shortage, she points to the opening of about three other bammy factories since Twickenham Industries began its operation in 1994. She notes that this factory is usually supplied with cassava by farmers from nine parishes, including Portland, St. Mary, St. Thomas, St. Andrew, Clarendon, Manchester, St. Elizabeth, St. Ann and Trelawny.

Mrs. Edwards noted that the factory currently uses approximately 20,000 kilograms of raw cassava per month.

She explained that this increased demand in raw material is due to the introduction of new products such as mini bammies, flavoured bammies, and Gari cereal, which is an African dish.

Another product which is at an experimental stage, is the cassava leaf dish. A sample of this product was displayed at the World Food Day exhibition at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) in Portland on October 16.

Mrs. Edwards says the fact that cassava is a local crop, it costs less to cultivate, and can be grown in almost any climate are good reasons why more farmers should plant this crop. She is also encouraging more Jamaicans to start eating cassava products to keep the farmers interest high.

This should be encouraging news for 62-year-old Ezra Williams who was forced to quit cassava farming some years ago due to the low price and demand of the tuber. Mr. Williams says that the two small markets which operate in St. Elizabeth and St. Catherine were inadequate to handle his large yields.

However, his love for growing cassava kept him on the look-out for any improvement in the cassava industry. For Mr. Williams, this came three years ago after learning about Twickenham Industries.

Today Mr. Williams is one of the major players in the cassava industry, providing a significant amount of the 20,000 kilograms of the tuber used by Twickenham Industries each month.

Mr. Williams says he currently has about two hectares of land planted in the crop and is prepared to increase production over time.

He explained that at present he is saving sticks for planting early next year, as the months of February and March are the ideal times to plant.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, was quoted by the Government's information agency, JIS as saying, cassava products were proving to be competitive and therefore there was increased market potential for the crop.

He emphasised that Jamaica had the capacity to increase the production of cassava to meet the export market.

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