This was disclosed by Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Caribbean office to the 14th Caribbean Week of Agriculture, held last week.
FAO, in collaboration with other partners such as the Caribbean Agribusiness Association (CABA) and the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), is part of a regional cassava working group, which has been pushing for greater investment in cassava production in the Caribbean.
According to the FAO, cassava is a viable substitute to the importation of wheat and corn as a contributor to the high import bill.
Some 900 000 MT of wheat for flour (valued at US$248.77 million) and 420 000 MT of corn (valued at US$145.46 million), mainly for poultry feed, is imported by CARICOM countries annually.
Additionally, the regional beer industry imports nearly 100 000 tonnes of malt annually and uses high fructose corn syrup as another ingredient in beer.
"Red Stripe is now using cassava in its beer production," Fletcher-Paul disclosed, adding that the cassava market had expanded to coffee shops and hotels, to suppliers for livestock feed and breweries for beer.
Based on analysis conducted in several CARICOM countries, there is a huge, untapped import substitution market opportunity for food, flour, feed and beer (and possibly energy – if volumes of production permit) that can be addressed by using cassava.