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Rome, 26 April 2000 - Cassava can help the fight against hunger and poverty in developing countries if production can be increased and marketing improved, according to a joint statement released today by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The announcement came at an international forum on the tropical root crop, organized by IFAD and FAO (26-28 April). The meeting is expected to approve a Global Action Plan and a Cassava Development Strategy.

'The Validation Forum on the Global Cassava Development Strategy' brings together representatives from some 20 countries, including private companies, farmers' and non-governmental organizations, researchers and donor agencies.

Millions of farmers, processors and traders around the world earn their livelihood from cassava, according to FAO and IFAD. It is the basic staple crop for 500 million people in tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world.

Partly by introducing high-yield varieties of cassava, Ghana managed to reduce undernourishment more rapidly than any other country in the world between 1980 and 1996, FAO said.

"Cassava can be an important engine for growth in many countries if production diversification and the commercial use of this important crop is improved," FAO and IFAD said. "The crop has been far too long neglected by policy makers and researchers. It is one of the most reliable and cheapest sources of food."

With world population increasing, especially in developing countries, cassava has an enormous potential. For example, by substituting wheat with cassava, poor countries could save a considerable amount of money in foreign exchange.

Cassava, also called Yuca and Manioc, can grow in places where cereals and other crops will not grow well. It can tolerate drought and grows in low-nutrient soils. The roots can be stored in the ground for several months. Cassava yields can reach as much as 40 metric tonnes per hectare, although national yields are considerably less. World average is about 10 tonnes per hectare. Cassava roots are bulky and highly perishable, and therefore must be processed for storage soon after harvest.

Global cassava production reached 167.7 million tonnes in 1999, FAO estimates that production will be 208.8 million tonnes by the year 2005. Currently around 60 percent of cassava are used for food and 25 percent to feed animals.

Cassava is the basis of a multitude of products, including food. Africans use cassava as foo-foo, a paste-like meal made from cooked fermented roots or flour; other forms include gari or in Latin America farinha, made by grating roots, fermenting, drying in the sun, followed by heating over low heat. Young leaves can be eaten as a fresh vegetable. Cassava is also used to make flour, bread (bammy bread in Jamaica), animal feed, alcohol, starches for sizing paper and textiles, sweeteners, prepared foods and bio-degradable products.

In Africa, the majority of cassava is consumed by people. Only a small portion is fed to animals. In Asia, most cassava is processed for chips and pellets for animal feed and starch, releatively little cassava is used for direct human consumption. Thailand in particular has successfully exported cassava for animal feed to the EU. In Latin America and the Carribean, more than 70 percent of cassava is still destined for traditional food dishes. In Brazil and Colombia, cassava is increasingly used by the snack and convenience food industry.

The Global Cassava Strategy would promote cassava as food while expanding its potential commercial role. It will identify opportunities for private investment and research. A global marketing strategy will be designed to look for better market opportunities.

In Africa, large post harvest losses could be reduced by controlling pests and diseases and improved processing. This could boost the economic yield of cassava by more than 150 percent. Increased trade in cassava pellets for livestock between Asia and the EU and improved domestic markets could boost the Asian cassava industry, IFAD and FAO said. Developing cassava as a convenience food for people in the cities could also create new market opportunities in Latin America.


Details on the metting are given by Mr. Marcio Porto, Chief of the Crop and Grassland Service, Plant Production and Protection Division (FAO), in an interview with Liliane Kambirigi.

Duration: 3min04sec

You can listen to or download the interview:
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In mp3 (Broadcast quality , to be downloaded, 1798Kb)

If you can't download, please call for a feed:
FAO Media-Office (E-mail: [email protected])
Liliane Kambirigi, Eric Deleu (radio unit) 039-06-5705 3223 / 6863

Instructions for listening to audio files:
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For more information please contact the following website:

or call Erwin Northoff, Media Officer, tel: 0039-06-5705 3105, e-mail: [email protected], Farhana Haquerahman, Coordinator, Communications and Public Affairs Unit, IFAd, tel: 0039-06-54592485, e-mail: [email protected] and Liliane Kambirigi, Media Officer(Radio), e-mail: [email protected], tel: 0039-06-57053223

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