Gradually but steadily, the popular national commercial intent of turning cassava production into a very serious venture in the country, is manifesting.
Just last Friday, September 25, 2015, Tema-based Grand Rise Food Company Limited signed an initial sale and purchase agreement in Tema with the first batch of 16 zonal coordinators recruited from five key cassava producing regions across the country.
Mr. Tony Lei, export manager of Grand Rise Food Company who initialed the agreement said, “the zonal coordinators have been contracted to organise farmers to produce cassava chips (kontonte) to meet the export standards of the company”.
In the subsequent weeks, the company is sure to sign similar agreement with more zonal coordinators in their areas of operation in the five selected regions. The regions are Brong Ahafo, Central, Western, Volta and Eastern.
Other local excited companies in the new cassava export business are also combing the length and breadth of rural Ghana, trying to poach anxious farmers to register with them.
According to Mr Lei, “our company has initial target of exporting 10,000 metric tonnes of cassava chips every month from Ghana to China and the expectation is that it will be increased to 40,000 metric tonnes per month.”
China’s current annual import for cassava chips or dried cassava, stands at four million metric tonnes but annually too, experts say, there is a shortfall of two million metric tonnes because the demand outstrips the supply.
Mr. Lei assured that payment for the cassava chips world be made instantly to farmers when the chips are cross-checked and weighed by the project coordinators at designated buying centres across the country.
According to Mr Lei, current world price of dry cassava chips per metric tonne stands at $110, adding that in Ghana the company has set the current price for 50 kilogramme cassava chips at GH¢21.
He said the price will be valid until December 2015, when it will be reviewed.
For a start, Mr Lei said zonal coordinators were expected to organise farmers to produce 10 tonnes of cassava chips in every two weeks in their respective areas of operation.
Grand Rise Food Company has been licensed by the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture to export cassava chips to China since China signed cassava export agreement with Ghana in 2013.
Mr. Lei said “cassava is one of the richest fermentable substances for the production of alcohol-fuel in China and there are huge factories in China whose huge demand for cassava chips are not met annually.”
Really, cassava is multifaceted crop which is finding many industrial applications across the globe. Such industrial applications include, well-drilling, adhesives, foundries, wood furniture, bio-fuels, dusting powders, plastics, packaging, corrugated boards, textile industry, paper industry, drugs, concrete stabilizer and alcohol products.
According to experts, the fresh roots of cassava contain about 30 per cent starch and five per cent sugar, while the dried roots contain about 80 percent fermentable substances which are equivalent to rice as a source of alcohol.
Statistics indicate that over 90 per cent of rural Ghanaian farmers are actively engaged in the cassava value chain and the obvious implication is that there is the urgent need to upscale the huge cassava industrial potential to make is more lucrative.
With respect to global ranking, Nigeria leads the pack as the world’s number one producer of cassava. Thailand is the second largest producer, followed by Indonesia, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Ghana in that order.
With the gradual and steady manifestation of commercially turning cassava production into a serious agricultural business venture in the country, the turn-key to unlock the full potential of the “wonder” multifaceted crop, largely lies in upscaling cassava breeding in Ghana.
And by that abject rural poverty reduction could be tackled head-on by using the “wonder” cassava crop to kick-start very serious rural employment generation and income and wealth creation across the length and breadth of our country.
By George Frank Asmah