Standards set for cassava and potato
Posted Wednesday, February 20 2013 at 00:00
Farmers in eastern Uganda engaged in growing root crops such as cassava and potatoes will participate in a project to improve production, quality, quantity and market access. They will work with a team including scientists, policy makers and those managing commodity standards.
There will be a sensitisation programme of farmers at the grassroots, beginning with those from Bukedea and Soroti districts, on how to manage their cassava and potato from the time of planting to the processing stage in a bid to compete in both the local and regional markets.
This pilot project is part of a wider ongoing initiative to harmonise standards for root crops in eastern Africa, which is being steered by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (Asareca).
It was as a result of the work of Asareca research networks on roots crops, sweet potato and policy analysis to develop the standards.
The one-year project, named “Enhancing adoption of harmonised standards for potato and cassava in Eastern and Central Africa”, is supported by funding from The World Bank worth $300,000 to be shared by the five countries.
At a recent public dialogue held in Kampala, the manager of Asareca’s Policy and Advocacy Programme, Dr Michael Waithaka, said the two crops are major root and tuber crops grown and consumed in most of East Africa.
Therefore, there is need to have high quality produce, which can be embraced by industries for manufacturing relevant products.
“The crops also hold high industrial potential for food, feed and industrial raw material. However, they are bulky and perishable and this affects its marketing although informal trade of these crops already exists,” Dr Waithaka said.
“But with increased incomes, urbanisation and changing eating habits, the demand for processed food has increased providing the rationale for commercialisation of root and tuber crops”.
To enhance the value of these crops, the project includes all stakeholders engaged in growing and processing these crops to follow set standards for high quality production.
In 2009, Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), which is leading the project in Uganda, proposed 14 standards for harmonisation.
In total, 25 standard have been harmonised for Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi for the farmers, traders, industries and other stakeholders.
For Uganda, the focus is on cassava in the east because there are already commercial farmers and processors associations there who can pick up with the standards very fast.
Importance to economy
The Director, UNBS, Dr Ben Manyindo, said as a standards regulator, they set out to sensitise all actors in the sector because of its importance in the entire economy.
“UNBS has 1,200 agreed agricultural standards but for this project those related to cassava and potatoes were picked for the benefit of the farmers as well as the industries.”