Mr Evans Kwame Ayim, Managing Director, Ayensu Starch Company Limited, says efforts aimed at commercialisation and spreading of technology of improved cassava products are paramount to stimulating economic growth.
He said the move would also create new employment opportunities for the youth and women in Ghana.
Mr Ayim said the potential of cassava as an industrial crop could not be overemphasised, hence it was important to promote the crop and its products along the entire value chain, adding that transforming agriculture from subsistence to commercially oriented system was key to feeding the growing population.
“Ghana’s economy stands to benefit greatly if steps are taken to industrialise cassava. There should be deliberate policy targeted at production of cassava, processing, and marketing.”
Mr Ayim said this at the launch of the maiden “Cassava Week Celebration”, of the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agricultural Research Institute (BNARI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) in collaboration with the Innovation Village at Anormawobi on Thursday, in Accra.
The celebration, which also forms part of the 30th anniversary celebration of BNRI was on the theme: “Cassava: Ghana’s golden roots for economic transformation”.
It is aimed at raising awareness of the immense economic benefits that could be derived from cassava, and promoting the adoption, cultivation, utilisation, and commercialisation of released cassava varieties.
The MD noted that over the years, BNARI had undertaken various initiatives aimed at contributing towards ensuring food availability, accessibility, utilisation, systems stability, and complementing government’s vision to ensure that industries that depended on cassava-based products as raw materials cut down on their imports.
He said cassava was processed as Starch, Ethanol, High Maltose Syrup, however, the path to developing it in Ghana as an industrial crop had been patchy, because most of the processing factories were not running at full capacity due to difficulty in obtaining raw materials (cassava) for production.
That, he said, presented an opportunity to BNARI and other research organisations to partner the companies to produce enough feedstock for the factories.
Mr Ayim noted that aside the impact of climate change, cassava farmers were also faced with numerous challenges, including poor soils, lack of sufficient planting materials, lack of personnel with experience in cassava and in the management of large plantations, and lack of Infrastructure.
“To limit the effect of these challenges, researchers must stop reinventing the wheels but work together to find solutions, and not leave the outcomes of their research on the shelves but make them available for industries and startups.”
Mr Ayim said local industrial products must also be consumed locally to grow the economy.
He commended BNARI and its collaborators for believing in the dream to build a better cassava industry that could transform the livelihoods of farmers, processors, and other players along the value chain.
Professor Silo Osae, Director, Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute, said out of all the myriad of problems that hindered socio-economic development in Africa, insufficient food production and supply seemed to be the most worrying.
He said the Institute had over years developed cassava varieties that were high yielding with high amounts of quality starch and high beta carotene content and that some of those varieties had been released.
Mr Micheal Osae, Director BNARI, said the Institute believed that if the research industry and academia harnessed the full potential of cassava, it could help transform the fortunes of the country.
He said some activities lined up for the celebration of the week include symposia, conferences, seminars, media engagements, and exhibitions at GAEC and the Innovation Village in the Central Region.