(GIS) – The Minister for Agriculture, Hon Ezechiel Joseph, has voiced continued support for Saint Lucia’s cassava industry as part of a wider plan to improve food security in the Caribbean region.
The minister’s comments were made earlier this year, at an inception workshop and cassava value chain cluster meeting, that was held to sensitize at least five important stakeholders—the Network of Rural Women Producers (Babonneau and Micoud Cluster), the Fond Assau Agro Processing Plant, the Bureau of Standards, the Development Bank and the Bakery Industry—of developments in the root and tuber crop (cassava) industry.
“This project came to fruition as a result of a request to the FAO for assistance in addressing processing issues in relation to the cassava crop, especially because one of the readily-available infrastructures— the Fond Assau Agro Processing Plant—had been in the retrofitting and refurbishing mode for the past six years,” the minister said.
The assistance of the FAO allowed for facility upgrades to food and safety compliance standards, and the ability to accommodate the cluster groups of the Saint Lucia Network of Rural Women Producers on a full-time basis.
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Augustus Cadette, thanked the FAO for the project “Sustainable Approaches to Agribusiness and Value Chain Development of Roots and Tuber Crops in the Caribbean,” valued at US$500,000.
Mr Cadette additionally expressed the ministry’s gratitude for the donation of a cassava grinding machine with the capacity to grind 1000 kilograms per hour. The DPS highlighted the benefits of automation in modern agriculture, and its efficiency in the agro processing of root and tuber crops.
Regional Project Coordinator for the FAO, Vermaran Extavour, stressed the importance of cassava as a food security crop, as is the present case at the CARICOM level.
“Cassava is the prioritized commodity for this project, and currently results in a two percent reduction on the food import bill within CARICOM,” she said. “Saint Lucia, as one of these CARICOM countries, must continue to contribute to the import bill’s further decline.”
She added that at the culmination of the project, Saint Lucia will be equipped to apply a value chain mindset toward the sustainable functioning of its Root and Tuber Crop Industry.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Natural Resources and Cooperatives collaborated with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the project.
The project envisions helping the root and tuber crop stakeholders (the local cassava industry) upgrade processing capacity and participate in value chain developmental activities.
Capacity building and technical assistance for the workshop were provided by IICA and CARDI, respectively.
CARDI, alongside the Extension Division of the Ministry of Agriculture has been providing and categorizing at least three cultivars needed for niche market development.