A farmer takes a close look at cassava harvest during the 2016 Kakamega County ASK Show. A Machakos factory is offering a ready market for cassava farmers. PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.
Small-scale farmers who have been producing cassava for domestic consumption can sell their crop to the recently opening of Kiara Agro Limited factory in Machakos County.
The factory crashes at least 15 tonnes of cassava to extract starch for re-packaging and selling to local consumers.
Kiara Agro Ltd Managing Director Pina Patel says the factory is ready to help farmers in producing high quality cassava to meet its demand while providing a source of revenue to the families.
Soil can be tested and best yielding breeds recommended, as one of the ways of helping the farmers.
“The cassava tubers must be of god quality to fetch well. Quality tubers yield high starch content, which is good for the company and the farmer. They have less fibre content and more starch, which is our main target product,” he says.
But the director insists that the cassava must meet the set criteria for the company to accept produce from suppliers.
A mature tuber must be at least one or one and half feet long, and two to three inches in thickness. This would ensure maximum productivity.
“In every five kilos of the tubers we need at least to kilos of starch. This is achievable if a farmer has the right variety and proper management practices,” he said.
Just like sweet and Irish potatoes, farmers are selling cassava in form of crisps.
Much of the processing cassava into crisps is done locally, with more others doing it on road sides and open spaces, posing multiple health risks.
Patel said the starch minting from the cassava is an opportunity for cassava farmers to enjoy the tuber in its finest powder form, when the less useful materials like fibre have been eliminated.
“Besides hygiene, processing increases the shelf-life of the cassava. No produce would go to waste after processing, for it will be consumed when the supply from farms is low. This would ensure a constant supply to avid consumers,” he said.
Cassava tolerates relatively poor soils and drought. This makes it a leading staple food for more than 300 million Africans of drier regions.
Food and Agricultural Organisation says Africa produced 140 million metric tonnes of cassava against 65 million metric tonnes of maize in 2011.
Much of this cassava is more of a food than cash crop.
But emergency of processing industry would turn the tubers to a commercial crop for most small-scale farmers in the drier and infertile soil regions where tea, coffee and other crops may not do well.
They will earn between Sh4 and Sh6 per kilo, which he says is way above the production cost of about Sh1.30 per kilo of cassava.
The director said their research had shown the local market is in demand of processed cassava, making this venture a lucrative investment.
He said the company looks forward to expanding to process more cassava.