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Cassava flour alternative relieves costs for bakers

By Lindsey Partos , 26-Jun-2008

Beating the high costs linked to the price of wheat flour on today's market, bakers in the African country of Ghana can now access a cheaper alternative produced with cassava and maize.

The composite flour, claiming to have a similar taste to wheat flour and manufactured by the ministry of food and agriculture with development input from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, among others, hit the market this week. The launch is a bid to relieve soaring prices for wheat flour, and to bring online the local staple crop, cassava. Figures cited by Clement Eledi, deputy minister of Food and Agriculture in-charge of crops in Ghana, who launched the product in Accra, suggest the flour alternative could considerably relieve pressure for local bakers, with prices for their raw material potentially nearly slashed in half. According to Eledi, the price of wheat flour currently stands at about GH 1,600 (€941.1) per metric tone. By comparison, high quality cassava flour is selling at GH¢ 900 cedis (€529), reports the Ghana News Agency (GNA). With the backdrop of ever tightening global commodity supplies, the Ghanian flour launch embodies global calls from a wide range speakers, including economists, environmentalists and policy makers, for developing, and developed, countries to source foods locally, thereby reducing their reliability on increasingly expensive imported cereal commodities and basic foods. The staple food for over 500 million people, cassava is a good commercial cash crop and a major source of food security, supplying in 2002 about 7.5 per cent of the world starch. Grown in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, notably Asia and southern Africa, cassava is cultivated for its starchy, tuberous roots that can be processed into tapioca, ground to produce manioc or cassava meal (Brazilian arrowroot), used as animal fodder or cooked and eaten as a vegetable. But there are downsides to cassava - its roots are low in protein and also deficient in several micronutrients, such as iron, zinc and vitamin A. And once the roots are harvested, certain strains of cassava can produce potentially toxic levels of cyanogens - substances that induce poisonous cyanide production. Figures from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) suggest that international trade in aggregate dry cassava products - also known as tapioca - underwent a sharp contraction in 2002, falling by 19 per cent to just under 6 million tonnes (in cassava pellet equivalent). Despite a slight increase in the volume traded in the form of flour and starch, which stood at 2.6 million tonnes (1.3 million tonnes in product weight), trade in chips and pellets fell by 33 per cent to 4.5 million tonnes.


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