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A CASSAVA INDUSTRY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

The overall climate for Jamaican agriculture, domestic and export, is not very bright, and will
be even less so when all protective tariffs against imported crops must be removed and when the
CSME come into being. The outlook for banana and sugar is very uncertain. The newer
“non-traditional” crops have found growing ethnic niche markets in the metropolitan countries as
well as through permeation to the mainstream segment. However, much of the potential is not
being realized, in large part because of local and often controllable factors, not just foreign
competition

For example, yam from Jamaica, despite being higher priced than yam from other sources,
apparently sells because of association with Jamaica (in the more benign sense) and perhaps
because of nationalistic loyalty and maybe even because of quality. But the white yam variety,
especially, is said to be under threat because of production cost, unsuitable size and shape due to
traditional mode of cultivation, having to be cut for size convenience and therefore requiring
anti-fungal treatment. The Jamaican connection may well not be able to sustain in the future a
viable yam export trade.

Other countries, employing modern methods for propagation and growing, resulting in lower
cost and more visually appealing tubers, not requiring to be cut to suitable size, are making
steady inroads in the markets abroad. Sweet potato may well be said to be in a similar position.

It is increasingly clear that our still current preoccupation with export agriculture in terms of
primary products is basically causing us and most of other Third World countries to compete
with one another into greater poverty. The recognition of this has elicited many calls for value
to be added to primary produce, i.e., for a genuine agro-industry. It is true that there have been,
for many years, some products so qualified, but they have been pitifully few and a lineup of such
products would show little change or addition from year to year.

It is also true that in recent years there has been the emergence of a hot pepper and jerk sauce
industry. But the market can bear only so many brands of a culinary item; too much of a me-
too mentality here. And, inevitably, foreign imitations have proliferated.

For quite some time the Scientific Research Council/Food Technology Institute has been
virtually the only agency engaged in, on a meaningful scale, R & D in food. It has quite a list
of products which appear commercially viable but largely waiting to be taken up by the private
sector. The sorrel chutney and related products are relatively outstanding successes only
because the institution had taken on the task of actively cultivating/creating the market,
developing proper packaging and labeling – successfully enough to be transferred to a private
entity. A line of pea soups has also been licensed to another group

Other products developed by the FTI have not impacted, seemingly, on the private sector or
public mind. Some in fact may have as much potential as the sorrel products but t is surely not
within the brief or capacity of the SRC to do for all these products what it has done for sorrel.
Whatever may be the reasons for the generally unsatisfactory state of the local food industry it
seems clear that projects are usually done in a piecemeal manner. That is, not all aspects of
many project are worked on in sufficient depth to maximize the realization of the end goal – that
of a new product actually being on the grocery shelf, at a reasonable price.

This article presents a case for a cassava industry to be run along the line of a modern
processing enterprise, that is, with focused engagement in all aspects of raw material production,
post-harvest, processing, improvement of present products and new product development,
packaging and marketing. Also, attention would also be given to the optimal use of peel
material, amounting to 18-20% of tuber weight, for animal feed ingredient and/or
compost/biogas production. One cannot of course accurately quantify the benefits in rural
development that would accrue to the areas that might be involved but it should not be
inconsiderable.

Cassava, in the period of its cultivation here, has been a Cinderella crop. It has undergone
many cycles in the extent of cultivation, of interest here and from abroad concerning its use and
export potential, of attempts to industrialize the scale on cultivation and manufacture of products
using cassava as a raw material. If there is any one reason which could begin to explain
adequately the failures it may be found in C. Roy Reynolds` highly instructive and not a little
interesting Gleaner article of Nov 18, 1973. “The long, long search to develop a cassava
industry”, in which he stated, “That we have so far failed to develop a viable industry based on
these locally grown items may be due to lack of tenacity rather than technical unfeasibility”

At long last there may be a break in the long story of promises appearing but not fulfilled.
The cassava pancake developed by Twickenham Bammies/RADA and in a personal way by Mrs.
Lorna Gooden seems the possible start of a cassava product industry. To go beyond the start
requires however, it seems to the writer, a totally thought out approach to the matter in the
manner outlined above.

Twickenham Bammies itself represents a major attempt arising from involvement by


FAO/RADA/SRC to enlarge the scale of a bammy-making enterprise in order, inter alia, to
ensure the continued commercial prospects of the product.

THE NEW BAMMY

But there is a need, it appears to this writer, for an accelerated , concerted thrust beyond the
cassava pancake and the traditional bammy in order for a real cassava industry to exist and
endure.

Although cassava use in Jamaica has been mostly in the form of the bammy and generally
liked, a more extensive use as a carbohydrate/energy source has been restricted by the relative
cheapness and popularity of wheat and rice and their ease and convenience of use, as well as the
perishability of the raw cassava when reaped.
It is probably perceived as being not as cost-effective (in the form of commercial bammy) as
bread and its use requires, after purchase from a store, soaking in milk/water, and steaming and
frying. Also, for the overseas market, even in the ethnic segment, the traditional packaging is
now hopelessly crude in visual appeal and information content.

The above points have been made in an article of the community paper, St. Bess, vol.2/16, of
Aug 15-28, 1999, and headlined, “Here comes St. Bess Bammies”, which reported on an Alpart-
sponsored for the making of bammies.

The article quoted the project`s executive summary as noting that , “ in the export market,
consumers are purchasing more low-fat foods as a result of increased social value placed in
being healthy…. Poor packaging, short shelf life, mediocre taste and relatively low quality are
some of the factors which have had a negative impact on bammy sales in the past”.

All of the above negative factors are amenable to research and development. In the absence
of the project`s full text the mention of low-fat food needs to be examined since bammy is
usually fried before eating. Steaming is of course a low-fat option but is perhaps less
convenient to do.

Being fat-free is not the only claim that can be made. Cassava is inherently gluten-free ( of
importance to the small but significant proportion of the population affected by the gluten in
wheat, rye and oat products), of low glycemic index and therefore supposedly suitable for
diabetics. As traditionally made, bammy is also salt- and preservative-free, though some
processors include one or both for taste and longer shelf life. Again, the making of a salt-free
but tasty and preservative-free but long shelf life product is entirely amenable to development.

It is the writer`s opinion that, with proper development and promotion, cassava, with all of the
above attributes, in the forms of bammy and bread, could well be a major player in health food
consciousness. It is virtually an ideal energy source. There seems to be no other crop,
temperate or tropical, which can match cassava`s blend of virtues in this function. This is
especially so in view of the fact that diabetes has become a major health disorder in countries
with a largely westernized diet and lifestyle.

Hawaii is a prime example of this situation. Newsweek of Aug 9, 1993, gives a forceful
account of a switch in dietary habits severely affecting the general health of the population, esp.
native Hawaiians. Subtitled, “ Returning Hawaiians to a native diet”, the article firstly gives an
account of Pat Oponu`s health problems which were similar to other native Hawaiians. He was
overweight and had an enlarged heart. “ I was weak; I could hardly walk”. Then he signed on
with a 3-week immersion into native Hawaiian foods and culture. “ I lost 29 lbs. and had so
much energy I redid my whole kitchen. I went from seeing my doctor once a week to once
every month. I use to take 8 pills a day for my heart and blood pressure, now I take two”.

Dr. Shintani, who ran the course, said that native Hawaiians have the worst health profile in
America. More than 65% were obese and the mortality rates from cancer, heart disease and
diabetes were the highest in the nation. Diet was seen as the chief culprit. Dr. Shintani said,”
In the old days, Hawaii`s staple was taro (dasheen). Today it is Spam “. Patients in the
program eat taro, seaweed, sweet potato, greens, fruits and small amounts of fish. The results
were miraculous; some of the patients sounded as though they had been to Lourdes. Said one
patient, “ I was on 40 units of insulin in the morning and 40 in the evening. On the 5th day of
the program Terry (Shintani) called me at work and told me to stop taking insulin. My blood
sugar was normal “.

Such diets may soon get a great deal more attention from the medical establishments, the
article continued. The US`s largest health insurance provider now supports a program of very
low-fat diet and exercise to treat serious heart disease patients, with better results than bypass
surgery and angioplasty.

An item in the Gleaner of Aug 12, 1988, titled, “Researchers recommend cassava diet for
diabetics ’’, reports of an article in the West Indian Medical Journal, vol. 37/2 (1988) which dealt
with research concerning diabetes mellitus. Cassava, properly prepared, was stated as preferred
over the more used wheat in diets of diabetes mellitus patients; wheat flour products gave
glycemic responses which were 200% greater than those produced by equivalent amounts of
cassava products.

The researchers also concluded that its substitution for wheat flour in the diet of the diabetic
and the obese can lead to its increased cultivation and ultimately increased earnings for local
farmers and foreign exchange.

A Gleaner article of Oct 17, 1991, “ Changing lifestyles causing health problems “, reports of
a meeting by the CFNI (Caribbean Food Nutrition Institute) in Kingston. Concern was
expressed by Dr. George Miller of Northwich Park Hospital, England, about the increasing
incidence of death caused by heart attacks in the English-speaking Caribbean. The West
Indians in the UK had a death rate from heart attack three times as that reported in Jamaica.
This was attributed to high-fat, low-fibre foods replacing a traditional diet of complex
carbohydrates which include roots, tubers, staples, pulses, vegetables, etc., which were formerly
the main diet of West Indians.

The Gleaner of Dec 6, 1991, carried an article, “ High-fibre diets reduce breast cancer risk ’’,
in which an Australian study found that fibre was the dietary component with the greatest role in
preventing breast cancer. Some women may be able to reduce their risk of developing breast
cancer by increasing the proportion of fibre-rich foods in the diet, to about 28 g/day. The
reduction is as much as 50%

That diabetes and hypertension and the various ailments derived therefrom are the results of
dietary and lifestyle changes led by the Western world is dealt with in a feature article of
Newsweek of Sep 4, 2000, titled, “Diabetes, a growing health crisis “. It reports of an alarming
increase of diabetes in the US across ethnic boundaries and age groups.

Type-2 diabetes, an inability to utilize insulin for the metabolism of glucose, once thought of
as being a disease of the middle-aged and the elderly, is now affecting large numbers of
teenagers. Studies showed that there is a strong correlation between obesity and type-2 diabetes
and for the former to be linked to diet and lifestyle, i.e., a high-calorie diet (esp. from fat and
excess sugar) and lack of exercise.

There have been reports before and after the articles cited above and which amplify the theme
as described above. The US government and other countries have taken serious notice of the
problem and have accordingly issued dietary recommendations for the general public and
government-supported institutions, esp. schools. Fast foods have become under fire and they
are responding accordingly, in perhaps more than token ways but still less than fully satisfactory.

The private sectors abroad have responded in their own way by offering carbohydrate
ingredients as substitutes for refined wheat flour, white rice, both used extensively in normal
diets. These ingredients are claimed to be complex carbohydrates and therefore have low
glycemic indices. i.e., they do not produce a suddenly higher level of glucose after ingestion.
These ingredients are flours from arrowroot, taro, sorghum, cassava. Of these flours, cassava
may be considered to be the most versatile and available and, in some uses, virtually unique.,
e.g., for tapioca pudding. They can be found offered for sale via web sites, at prices which
would make the production and marketing of cassava flour an attractive economic activity,
provided the agronomy and processing technology can be got right.

There are thus good reasons and opportunities for the greater use of cassava with the
employment of a proper strategy of development and promotion. The purely technical aspects,
including having a longer shelf life, higher quality and better taste of products, can be addressed
by food technology.

EASE OF USE

Convenience of use, i.e., not requiring to soak and fry/steam but only to thaw and heat/warm,
would be a key requirement of the “new bammy”. This too, can be achieved by the appropriate
technology and packaging for long shelf life.

PACKAGING AND LABELLING

Packaging research would serve two main goals. Firstly, to extend the shelf life, esp. for the
export market. This would lead to a greater readiness to merchandise the product on a larger
scale, i.e., in mainstream stores. Secondly, allied with proper packaging is labeling for the
metropolitan market. A mimeographed label with minimal information can no longer serve
even the ethnic market, even if such a package is still allowed. A modernized label would serve
the following aims.

•To fulfill packaging/labeling requirements for food being traded globally

•To enlighten the ethnic market that bammy is not just a “nostalgia” product from the home
country but also a healthy item in its own right.
•The mainstream market would pay attention to the displayed product through attractively
designed and eye-catching labeling which incorporates illustration, information as to
what the product is about, apart from having the word bammy on the label, and the
dietary benefits of the product.

Achieving the above may require reshaping the product, perhaps in rectangular form, of such a
size as to allow for the illustration and easily legible information. On the obverse side of the
package would be the mandatory nutrition facts and preparations instructions. The front
label would impart the following health advantages:

•Gluten-free
•No lactose – contains soy milk (as preparation option)
•Low glycemic index – diabetic friendly
•Low fat (or no fat)
•No salt or sugar
•No preservative
•High soluble fibre (to be confirmed. Or refined natural fibre may be added)

Such a label would require the services of a good package designer, esp. for an English/French
bilingual version for the Canadian market.

TASTE

The mention of mediocre taste in the St. Bess article is perhaps just a matter of personal
preference, as many find it attractive enough, esp. if eaten with other food items, as in the case
for wheat bread. Perhaps it is a reference to the bland taste; if so then it is actually a virtue,
for, like wheat bread, there is surely a market for flavored versions of bammy. One is in fact
aware of some work done in this regard by then SRC. One could imagine other flavors that
could be tried in addition to those experimented with by the SRC, e.g., cheese and bacon
flavors. Work required would include suitable choices of flavors, sources, methods of
incorporation, concentration, baking conditions, taste testing, shelf life study.

PRODUCTION AND QUALITY ASSURANCE

The factor of poor quality as mentioned in the St. Bess article is of course largely a matter of
the processor involved. A good producer might be able to maintain quality on a modest scale
but a greatly enlarged market might strain capacity and quality. What would be needed is
less an expansion of the cottage industry mode of operation and more of a modern
commercial setup. This may require collaboration with local baking expertise and overseas
makers of baking equipment for process and equipment adaptation.

MARKETS
The ethnic segment and a mainstream household market made aware of the product through
superior presentation have been mentioned above. Additionally, there is the promise of a
hugely enlarged market, as stated in the St. Bess article, “ With the help of Jampro, hotels,
restaurants and supermarkets in North America are being targeted, for both dinner and cocktail
bammies, chips and bread”. One suspects however, that this objective will not be fully
realized unless approached in a radically different way, as for instance, proposed for the “new
bammy”, in particular that of requiring only minimal preparation before serving.

R & D STRATEGY

R & D work will obviously require the participation of a number of entities, with each
contributing a particular expertise or set of expertise, and ranging from choosing of the plant
variety/varieties to be used, best agronomic practice, post-harvest and all activities related to
the above. Those readily coming to mind include the SRC, UTECH, Twickenham Bammies,
RADA, CFNI, Bodles station, CASE. Information and data gathering will be an important
component w.r.t uses made of cassava abroad, to be exploited domestically or as export items,
agronomy, raw material processing and any other relevant aspects. The Internet will
obviously play a significant part in information gathering.

ADDENDUM 1 BAMMY AS FUNCTIONAL FOOD

Until the last couple of decades or so, food “improvement” had been based on the concept of
“enriching” certain foods, e.g., flour, milk, with a few vitamins and minerals to counter their
deficiencies as may occur in the usual diets. Alternatively, multivitamin/mineral pills may be
taken to provide more or less a complete coverage of the essential vitamins and minerals.

Both ways are inconvenient and/or expensive, in the local context, to do. It may well be
that cassava, in the form of bammy or similar products, is the nearest to an ideal carrier for
those ingredients. The very small amounts of ingredients equivalent to a
multivitamin/mineral pill dispersed in a typical serving of bammy should not impart a
discernible taste.

There have appeared the concepts, within the last decade or so, of nutraceuticals and
functional foods, in which food components, not belonging to the above classes of food
ingredients, are regarded as having substantial preventive properties in the ageing and disease-
causing processes, sometimes to the point of actually reversing certain ageing effects long
thought irreversible.

Research having appeared to confirm the beneficial results of ingesting these components, a
flourishing industry has developed, largely dominated by First World companies, in supplying
those components in various ways, either as nutraceuticals (active extracts) or as functional
foods (basically, foods in their natural forms and with the required active components), with
the Third World cast chiefly in the role of suppliers of extracted ingredients and not as
producers of the final added-value items.

Surveys have indicated that consumers prefer functional foods over nutraceuticals in the
taking of healthful ingredients. As a nutraceutical industry is capital- and expertise-intensive
these facts would be of advantage in an attempt to develop a local functional foods industry,
with cassava playing a leading role.

ADDENDUM 2 LONG TERM RAW MATERIAL (CASSAVA)


SOURCING

The technical success of a project is of course not the only determinant of its viability. The
constant cycle of glut and shortage, transport and marketing difficulties, very short shelf life of
reaped tubers unless specially treated and stored, have been substantially responsible for the
lack of a large, stable outlet for the primary crop.

What are the problems in Jamaica relating to a successful large-scale exploitation of cassava,
apart from the factors mentioned above? A relatively common comment made when national
matters are discussed is one based on a remark by Mr. Norman Manley so many years ago –
that we lack fixity of purpose. And to repeat what Mr. Reynolds stated in his article, “that
we have failed so far to develop a viable industry on locally grown items may be due to a lack
of tenacity rather than technical unfeasibility”.

This lack of fixity/tenacity of purpose and effort is surely not an innate trait of a people. It
seems to this writer that there are two fundamental factors at work. Firstly, the strategic
development of a particular idea requires not only a long-term vision but a commensurate
length of effort and commitment. For a national goal this would mean a very substantial
public sector involvement and the exigencies of national politics and governance do not allow
for this. It is the national equivalent of ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder.

Secondly, the group that could benefit directly from a successfully realized concept is the
least able to think and act strategically in its implementation. The average cassava grower,
by circumstance, is unable to concern himself/herself beyond growing a cash crop for a
subsistence living. On the other hand, for those who are in a position to influence policy and
effect changes, i.e., leadership in the relevant areas of national life, the outcome of an
idea/concept does not really impact on one`s career or personal wellbeing.

In other words, what is lacking is true “stake-holding”, having an interest in an outcome


which goes beyond mere job/career justification.

The above might seem an almost irrelevant preamble to a discussion on cassava supply but it
is quite apposite, for there are several intertwining factors at work. As Mr. Reynolds ` article
has shown, there has been no lack of attempts to develop a broad-based cassava industry.
They have all in time come to naught.
A major reason for failed schemes re a cassava industry development has been the cost of the
raw tuber. On a dry weight basis it is simply not as cost-effective as wheat flour, which has
the additional advantages of ease of use and providing a modest amount of protein. A pack
of two traditionally-sized bammies, weighing 350 g., of ca. 55% water content, cannot
possibly cost $80 or more in the supermarket and also be a daily breakfast item.

A successful strategy must therefore involve greatly increasing the yield/ha by the farmer to
offset a lower init cost more attractive to the processor and ultimately resulting in a more
affordable end product.

Ironically, the characteristics of cassava`s ability to be grown in poor land and drought
resistance have caused much of it to be grown in those areas which guarantee low
productivity. There may be a need for a joint public/private sector initiative to use large
tracts of land, including good land (i.e., suitable soil and water availability) formerly used for
sugar and banana and at the same time to protect and increase the welfare of the peasant
grower.

PLANT VARIETIES

Cassava has often been said to be a poor relation in terms of attention paid to its breeding and
agronomy but one`s awareness of the research and academic literature, although very
incomplete, seems to belie this.

It now seems that the major consideration in the planting of cassava is whether it is to be the
bitter or sweet variety. The former is planted because of its presumed greater starch content
and therefore better suited for making bammy, the sweet kind because of its lower toxic
compound content and therefore directly usable in cooking. The bitter variety is of course
processed to lower the toxic content and during which some starch is removed from the meal.
This starch has other uses but it also presents but it also presents a loss of product weight from
a given amount of cassava.

There are a number of agricultural research centres worldwide doing basic research in
tubers, and cassava in particular, from which there may be new varieties which can
replace/complement those now grown here. The present local varieties are of course quite
adequate for agro-processing although the yield/acre is grossly below potential; but one ought
not to accept that “adequate is sufficient”, there is always room for improvement.

There is perhaps no one kind of the new varieties bred and offered that can be said to be THE
BEST for local use - trying to ascertain that would be a long and arduous task. There is one,
however, which has come to the writer`s notice, having a set of properties, which, in
conjunction with improved farming practice and suitable land, could well revolutionize the
prospect for a cassava agro-industry in Jamaica.
The Indian institution, Central Tuber Crops Research Institute, Trivandrum, has developed a
triploid variety with superior attributes of yield, starch content and low toxic content, called “
Shree Harsha’’. It would be desirable for this variety to be tried locally.

AGRONOMY AND INPUT SUPPORT

Although cassava is tolerant of adverse agronomic conditions the needs of a viable cassava
industry will mean cultivation according to the best agronomic principles. Irrigation must be
accorded serious attention and soil nutrition optimized, etc.

There may be the need for a cassava association encompassing the various players, somewhat
along the line of present commodity associations/boards but run in more innovative ways.
These may include:

1. The engagement or setting up of a laboratory for the expeditious and cost-effective


analysis of soil conditions and organic matter. Timely advice could then be given regarding
the fertilizer needs of various plots.

2. 2. A closely knit system of market intelligence and crop collection/transportation so


that demand and supply aspects of the industry should be in harmony.

ADDENDUM 3 MAXIMIZING THE USE OF CASSAVA RAW


MATERIAL

In Jamaica, for the making of bammy, the peeled roots are grated and the material pressed in
a cloth-like bag to expel excess liquid and accompanying fine material (starch). The meal
remaining is the portion used for the bammy. The starch may be recovered for sale but
apparently is usually regarded as a by-product of minor consideration.

A reading of technical/academic journals and related literature has shown to the writer that
Jamaica is using only part of the potential that could be realized from cassava as raw material,
going beyond the possibilities stated in “The New Bammy” and Addendum 1 sections above.
In some Latin American countries the parallel to our bammy seems to be “pan de yucca”,
literally, cassava bread, which uses not the meal from the pressing but the squeezed-out starch,
a reversal of the Jamaican way of utilization.

For some time the writer has been wondering why Latin Americans should take the time and
trouble to produce the kind of starch used for pan de yucca. The process consists of
squeezing the finely-grated cassava through fine cheesecake-like fabric and subjecting the
starch to a series of washings and decantings and scraping the starch surface until there is no
more discoloration. Between changes of water the starch is allowed to “ferment” and, after
some 20-30 days, is dried in the sun. Thereafter this “sour starch” is used to make a variety
of products, of which pan de yucca is a major one (see formulation in ref. 1). In general
appearance and physico-chemical characteristics there seems to be no great differences
between the sour and sweet (freshly grated and pressed) starch. But scanning electron
microscope (SEM) examination shows some of the starch granules in the sour starch to have
pitted surfaces not shown by sweet starch granules.

The meaning of this surface difference is apparently not yet known but the process involved
in the production of sour starch, including drying in the sun, is essential for making pan de
yucca, etc. The distinguishing characteristic of the starch is the expansion obtained when
bread and biscuits incorporating it are baked (ref. 1, 2). This is essential for making the
products light-textured for general acceptance, Thus this starch and the products possible
from it represent significant potential for increasing the utilization of cassava.

Should there be a requirement for more starch to be obtained from the cassava in lieu of the
meal then it only a matter of grating more finely the raw material to release additional starch.
The Latin American pan de yucca type products could well find a significant market in
Jamaica and abroad because of the wheatbread-like characteristics (judging by the formulation
given in ref. 1). They are not likely to be price-competitive with wheat bread but they would
have the advantage of being gluten-free and of an attractive and novel taste to many.

Furthermore, the possibility exists for the bammy itself to be “improved” to widen its appeal.
Many do not like much the heavy texture of the usual product and the common method of
making and preparing it for eating makes it a “teeth-challenging” experience for some, esp. the
elderly. That sour starch makes possible light-textured, thin-crusted “cassava bread” strongly
suggests that bammy can be made similarly. These new characteristics, added to those of the
“new bammy” discussed above, should greatly increase the bammy market.

Research toward this goal would presumably be along the line of adopting/adapting the sour
starch process, finding the ratio of sour starch to meal to obtain the ideal “light” bammy and
the appropriate baking process.

The writer has observed that the references 1 and 2, gave two different possible explanations
for the distinguishing properties of sour starch. Literature search will continue w.r.t. on-going
research on this matter. The result could be a better way, cost- and process-wise, of
producing sour starch.

OTHER POTENTIAL USES

There are other actual or potential uses of cassava not fully dealt with here as they are beyond
the scope of the presentation but they will be briefly discussed to show the full scope of what
can be done with the crop. A fuller discussion of these possibilities could be the subject of
another presentation.
Flocculant for Bauxite/alumina Industry. The use of cassava flour as a flocculant for the
industry was looked into many years ago, over 30 years in fact. The conclusion broadly was
that cassava starch/flour performed quite well and the potential then was for the use of over
100,000 tons of cassava per year, but actual use foundered on the question of economics. A
report noted the local yield to be 2-7 tons/acre whereas it is typically 20-26 tons elsewhere –
Brazil, Thailand, Columbia, etc. Thus, if the technical merits of the starch still holds up vis-à-
vis synthetic flocculants, then the economics will have to be improved through better
agronomic practice.

Animal Feed. There have been many studies, local and abroad, on the suitability of cassava
meal and even the peel as partial and complete replacement of maize as an energy source, or
as a binder for fish feed pellets. Again, low-yielding agronomic practice has prevented the
use of the tubers in these ways. In contrast, cassava chips from Thailand have been exported
to European countries as an energy source in animal feed.

Other Food Uses. The tapioca pudding mixes seen in the supermarkets and imported from
the US are basically flavored cassava starch. Cassava flour makes superior breading mix for
the frying of e.g., fish, shrimps, poultry since it does not stick as much to the frying vessel as
does wheat flour breading. A recipe exists for cassava doughnut. Cassava pieces, like yam
locally, are used elsewhere in soups and stews but not much here because of limited
availability and perishability. Excellent chip/fries can be made from cassava and indeed are
produced and sold abroad. Grated cassava makes a highly liked pudding/pone but the making
of it locally is limited because of the factors stated. Mixed with wheat flour, a good dinner
roll can be made. A good substitute for Irish potato for salads and casseroles is provided by
cassava.

Gari, a processed cassava meal, is used by e.g., Nigerians, as a staple, just as Jamaicans use
rice as the main staple. It is the writer`s understanding that it is imported, and to an extent
made locally by some Nigerians, to serve the needs of the two? thousands or so expatriates
here. If so then making it may be a profitable business for a small enterprise, but again
dependent on the cost of the raw material since 5 kg. of tuber are needed for every 1 kg. of
gari.

Other good ideas could be obtained from various local food festivals, culinary events and from
the Internet

Non-food Uses Office adhesive, additive to “stretch” synthetic adhesive paste, laundry
starch.

Readers may be interested in a report on The Cassava Programme Seminar in Jamaica, Oct,
1986, at Bodles Research Station, put on by the Ministry of Agriculture and IICA. Individual
presentations are as follows:

Technological Co-operation for a Cassava Production and Development Project: Background


•Cassava Propagation and Development in Jamaica - An Update

•Cassava – A crop for Jamaica

•Development of Agro-industry in Jamaica

•Insect and Mite Pests in Jamaica

•Processing of Cassava

•Final Report: Cassava Rapid Multiplication Project, Orange River

•Economic Importance of Cassava to the Jamaican Economy

• also 2 inserts: Production costs and chemical composition.

Note: It can be noted that the references, 1 and 2, 18 years apart, give two different possible
explanations for the distinguishing characteristics of sour starch. The writer continues to
search the literature w.r.t. on-going research on this matter. The result could be a better way,
cost- and process-wise, of producing sour starch.

REFERENCES

1. Sour Cassava Starch Production: A Preliminary Study O. Cardenas, T. de Buckle. J.


Food Sci., 45, 1509 (1980)

2. Effect of Acid Treatments and Drying Processes on Physico-chemical and Functional


Properties of Cassava Starch N. Plata-Oviedo, et al. J. Sci. Fd. & Agric., 77/1, 103

3. Development and Evaluation of Products from Cassava as New Alternatives to Wheaten


Bread G. Eggleston, P. Omoaka, et al. J. Sci. Fd & Agric., 59/3, 377

4. Production of Fermented Cassava Starch in Brazil A. Westby, et al. Tropical Sci.,


34/2, 203
5. Review of sour cassava starch production in rural Columbian areas. N. Zakhia, et al.
Tropical Sci., 36/4, 247

6. Effect of different drying methods on Infun (fermented cassava flour). L. Sanni, et al.
Tropical Sci., 38/1, 1-4

.. These references may be seen at the Science Library, UWI, Mona

David Lee
925 1558
1- 783 9862
dalee@cwjamaica.com

Original presentation : Aug, 2001


Revised: Oct, 2004