Cassava farmers showing keen interest in Red Stripe's Project Grow

Sunday, February 26, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Cassava farmers contracted under Red Stripe’s Project Grow, have been showing a keen interest in the beer manufacturer’s vision of substituting imported high maltose corn syrup (HMCS), with locally produced cassava starch in the brewing process.
Local Raw Materials Business Development Manager at Red Stripe, Dr Cavell Francis-Rhiney, said that there has so far been an “oversubscription for what we would need right now”.
“The buy-in of the farmers has been really good. We are very heartened that farmers are really interested in growing (cassava). We have to be keeping the farmers informed and to let them know that we’ll soon be getting around to their group,” she said.
Under Project Grow, Red Stripe aims to substitute 40 per cent of its HMCS imports with cassava starch by 2020.   
In light of the significant enthusiasm reported by the farmers, Dr Francis-Rhiney noted that it is her intention to meet the targets before the 2020 deadline.
 “That is my personal target, but I must caution that it is not just growing the acreage, it is also growing the output of the farmers because we need the farmers to be producing at much higher tonnage per hectare than what the national average currently is, which is 15,000 tonnes per hectare,” she said.
“Ideally, we’d like to be at least 30,000 tonnes per hectare so that requires a lot of training, working with the farmers and sharing a lot of information,” she added.
Dr Francis-Rhiney informed that currently 27 farmers and one farmer’s group are being contracted to supply Red Stripe with tubers for the Project, which represents approximately 430 acres of land.
The farms are located in the parishes of St Catherine, Clarendon, St Ann, Manchester and St Elizabeth. Another set of farmers will also be contracted in short order.
“We’re doing it in batches. We want to do it in batches of 30 farmers or 500 acres depending on which comes first. For the entire project, its 4000 acres, 20 per cent of which we’ll grow ourselves and the rest we will outsource through contract farming,” she said.
Red Stripe chose to utilise cassava based on its ease to process and the fact that it would not affect the signature beer’s taste and colour.
Past President of the Bright River Cooperative Society Limited in North East, St. Elizabeth, Claude Smith, agreed that the enthusiasm of the farmers under Project Grow have been building.
He noted that since last year, local farmers even those involved in cane farming, have been expressing interest in being a part of the Red Stripe project.  
“Momentum is growing, I don’t know if I can contain their enthusiasm. The more cassava is purchased, the more people call to say they want to get into cassava planting. Every single day farmers call me wanting to get into it (Project Grow) to sell cassava,” he said.
Smith informed that the Bright River Cooperative Society has so far registered over 50 farmers “treating them as associate farmers under the cassava project”.  
“In this Association, quite a few people have sold cassava through Bright River and we have those that are presently planting for the programme,” he said.
With the commitment of the farmers, Smith believes that Red Stripe will achieve its target.

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