CARDI strengthening sweet potato value chain
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the region’s food insecurity, with its growing dependence on imported food to meet our daily subsistence both worrying and unacceptable, according to executive director of the Caribbean Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Barton Clarke.
The annual regional food import bill was projected to exceed US$5 billion by 2020.
It is for this reason that CARDI, with financial support of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), is implementing a three-year project to improve the production, processing and marketing of sweet potato in the region. Under this project to be implemented in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana and St Vincent and the Grenadines, the CDB will provide US$600,000 with CARDI providing counterpart funding to the value of US$210,000. The results will be shared across the region.
Sweet potato is an important local food source for Caribbean peoples and a priority research commodity for CARDI. However, in spite of the agronomic and value chain improvements, the regional industry is still beset with challenges. Regional production is lagging behind when compared to other regions of the world. Additionally, farmers and processors are not adequately equipped to meet the demands of the modern consumer and address product safety standards and sanitary and phytosanitary requirements for intra-regional trade. This situation prohibits them from accessing high-value food markets for fresh and processed products.
Using a market-led approach, a value chain analysis will be conducted to analyse the gaps and identify opportunities for market linkages and investments. A complementary research component will identify and make available climate resilient varieties for production and processing. The aforementioned interventions will inform the development of a series of agriculture multimedia extension aids. Targeting farmers and other stakeholders along the sweet potato value chain, these aids will demonstrate best practices in sweet potato cultivation, processing and value-added product development. The goal is to increase the production and consumption of sweet potato.
“Projects like this are an opportunity for Caribbean countries to make significant strides towards increasing their production of traditional commodities, placing them on the path to achieving food and nutrition security. Our vision is to have a food-secure region. We view this as a shared responsibility and CARDI remains committed to working with all stakeholders to improve the region’s self-sufficiency, while exploiting our full production potential in a sustainable manner,” declared Clarke.