The Ministry of Agriculture is undertaking an ambitious new project which will see local cassava used on a wider scale to produce animal feed, flour and a variety of other goods for consumption and sale.
This was disclosed recently by Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, who explained that one of the objectives of the cassava project was to produce a local feed alternative for ruminants, as many farmers, particularly those engaged in black belly sheep production, were complaining of rising feed costs.
Ruminants are any hoofed, even-toed, usually horned mammals such as cattle, sheep and goats, characteristically having a stomach divided into four compartments and chewing a cud consisting of regurgitated, partially digested food.
"What we have decided is that to stabilise feed costs we are going to produce the feeds from cassava. We now know that cassava leaves contain extremely high protein content…I have gone to several countries and seen for myself how many of these animals are fed utilising plant leaves like cassava in combination with sugar cane and other carbohydrates," Dr. Estwick pointed out.
For years, agricultural stakeholders in Barbados have touted the use of cassava beyond its primary purpose as a crop. The Food Promotion Unit of the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) is already processing cassava into secondary and tertiary products for sale.
The Ministry has engaged two potential joint venture partners – from the United Kingdom and China – as part of a clinical trial to test varieties of cassava.
Dr. Estwick revealed that discussions were held with the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) with the aim of mechanising the production of cassava here and for the trials, the BAMC will provide 100 acres of land.
"We will start with 50 acres of land and we will be planting only cassava. We are testing the varieties now that will give us the best leaf and root characteristics," he said.
The Agriculture Minister added: "The objective with the plant we are having evaluated by the European and Chinese groups would be to take the cassava root [and] convert that into cassava flour for use in local baking. We are now working with the bakers to [ascertain] the percentage of flour that can be utilised in their breads without changing the characteristics."
According to Dr. Estwick, there were many uses for the crop in Barbados and the development of such an industry could generate employment for many Barbadians.