Cassava flour could soon be readily available on supermarket shelves here in more than adequate supplies, with the construction of a near quarter-million-dollar cassava flour plant expected to go into operation by September.
Chief Executive Officer of the state-run Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) Shawn Tudor told Barbados TODAY planning permission had already been secured from the Town & Country Planning Department for the erection of a building at Fairy Valley, Christ Church to house the mill, which has already been ordered.
Once installed, the mill will produce a tonne of cassava flour a day, making it possible to produce a number of products from the root crop, including pasta and cassava bread, Tudor said.
According to the agricultural official, the project will provide additional revenue opportunities for farmers, since large amounts of agricultural land would be needed to grow cassava.
“We will enter into contracts with farmers and there are also options for feed available down that road,” he explained.
The authorities see the cassava flour initiative as another avenue for getting more Barbadians involved in agriculture, which is experiencing some sort of rebirth based on the number of people who are involved again, Tudor said.
However, concerns remain, including the fact that even those who practice agriculture fail to see it as a business, according to the chief executive officer.
“Agriculture has once again become an option that people are looking at. We have more requests for land than we have and than we can ever get from plantations to bring back in. But people are coming to agriculture and just thinking it is easy and they are not recognizing that it is a business,” the BADMC boss stated.
He advised farmers to formulate business plans and put money into the sector to better position them to receive assistance from the state entity as it seeks to bring land back into agriculture.
He cited the Land for the Landless project, including the Spring Hall land lease programme in St Lucy, as initiatives that require the participants to have some business sense.
“The contracts that they had then, they were not very tight. There were large tracks of land, 25 acres for 25 years. What you have now is a generational thing where those farmers have raised their families . . . not able to manage the land, but you still have difficulty getting the land back,” Tudor said.
As a result, he said, there was quite some sub-letting taking place, contrary to the terms and conditions of the original lease, and a lot of unproductivity, which the BADMC is trying to tackle.
“We are working hard to regularize that . . . . We are working at reclaiming and getting back land from delinquent farmers . . . who are no longer interested in farming; they have run up massive debts over the past 15 years; haven’t planted anything in ten or 15 years. We are writing to them saying “you can hand this land back to us; we can work some sort of debt forgiveness. Just give us the land back,” he said.