Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cassava for food and energy security

FAO Newsroom: The tropical root crop cassava could help protect the food and energy security of poor countries now threatened by soaring food and oil prices, FAO said today. At a global conference held in Gent, Belgium, cassava scientists called for a significant increase in investment in research and development needed to boost farmers’ yields and explore promising industrial uses of cassava, including production of biofuels.

The scientists, who have formed an international network called the Global Cassava Partnership, said the world community could not continue to ignore the plight of low-income tropical countries that have been hardest hit by rising oil prices and galloping food price inflation.

Widely grown in tropical Africa, Asia and Latin America, cassava is the developing world’s fourth most important crop, with production in 2006 estimated at 226 million tonnes. It is the staple food of nearly a billion people in 105 countries, where the root provides as much as a third of daily calories. And it has enormous potential – at present, average cassava yields are barely 20% of those obtained under optimum conditions.

Cassava is also the cheapest known source of starch, and used in more than 300 industrial products. One promising application is fermentation of the starch to produce ethanol used in biofuel, although FAO cautions that policies encouraging a shift to biofuel production should carefully consider its effects on food production and food security….

Dried manioc Manihot esculenta, also known as cassava, displayed in the market of Abong-Mbang, East Province, Cameroon. Shot by Amcaja, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2

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