CASTRIES, St Lucia – The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is spearheading a project which will not only increase the cultivation of cassava throughout the region but also encourages the production of cassava blended bread as a healthier alternative to the traditional white bread.
Cassava is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible, starchy, tuberous root which is a major source of carbohydrates. And the Ministry of Health and Wellness in St Lucia has collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture on a Roots and Tubers project funded by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).
National Coordinator for the project, Marnus Cherry said among the benefits of this project is a projected increase in sweet cassava production island wide.
“It’s a crop that is drought resistant, so you can call it a climate smart crop and cassava has been one of the root crops most researched by researchers and other scientists. It also has a better finished product as compared to sweet potato and other root and tuber crops,” Cherry said.
Another component of the project is the value added aspect with the production of cassava mash which is used to make cassava blended bread. The bread is currently being produced by at least four bakeries on island.
Manager for Manees Bakery, Sylvia Cadasse said the only drawback is an increased cost in production due to the refrigeration of cassava mash.
“When FAO did an experiment in 2014 with us they brought cassava flour and they brought cassava mash. What we found was the end product with mash, as opposed to flour, gives a much better and softer product, much better than flour. However, mash may be more expensive because of the fact that you need freezing space,” she explained.
Cadasse said greater visibility and marketing of cassava blended bread is also required to increase the demand for the product: “First it has to be properly advertised, and it has to have the backing of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture in a bigger way that it is now.”