CEO (Ag) of the BADMC, Glendene Bartlett signing the MOU while Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick (left), BMA Executive Director, Bobbi McKay (centre) and BMA Technical Officer, Sade Stalberg (right) look on.(G. Brewster/BGIS)
A number of local bakeries will begin incorporating cassava flour into their products from tomorrow, Thursday, January 17, as the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) and the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) begin a series of cassava trials.
The leaders of the two entities – Glendene Bartlett, acting Chief Executive Officer of the BADMC and Executive Director of the BMA, Bobbi McKay – signed a Memorandum of Understanding today, at the Ministry of Agriculture’s headquarters, Graeme Hall, Christ Church.
Overseeing the process was Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick, who told those in attendance that the project had the potential to reduce the food import bill by moving from just the primary consumption of cassava to producing "high value" products such as cassava chips, starch and animal feed that could be retailed both locally and regionally.
The Minister added that for a number of years, Barbados had been suffering from "imported inflation" which was a result of spiralling food costs globally, due to rises in the price of corn, soya and oil. He said the only way to break the cycle was to control some of the domestic production elements in Barbados.
"This particular project that we are engaging in is the first step in the Ministry’s attempts to break that cycle. I am confident that once we can establish the relationship between the manufacturers and the general users of cassava flour and have that link to the BADMC and the production side… that we are going to be able to establish and develop an integrated cassava industry in Barbados.
"…It is the scientific investigations that are going to be carried out now, that are called the trials that will help us to determine the percentage mixtures of the cassava with the various other flours and to determine whether the taste we got accustomed to with respect to our sandwich loaves and other products are changed significantly, and if we need to adjust it, and so on. That is technical work that has to be done now and that work will start tomorrow. Bakers know their business so they will be able to tell us quickly the percentage they need to get the job done," Dr. Estwick noted.
In addition to the economic benefits, the Minister said cassava offered a number of health benefits as well since it was gluten free. He explained that wheat flour contained gluten which was linked to various "gluten-induced" diseases such as asthma, sinus problems, dry skin and dandruff. When the cassava flour was mixed with local products, it would reduce the amount of gluten Barbadians consumed, he pointed out.
Dr. Estwick disclosed that once the trials were successful, the Ministry would dedicate some 3,000 acres to cassava production. Presently, the BADMC sources its cassava from approximately 30 small farmers.
In relation to animal feed, he explained that cassava starch was a complex carbohydrate and the leaves contained protein which when combined would be good for animal consumption. Additionally, he said the entire stalk carried significant nutritional value. The Minister added that the Ministry and the BADMC had the technical capacity to produce a "highly nutritious" product for goats, sheep, cows and poultry.