Export data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin) shows that exports of both dried cassava, cassava flour and bammy has been on the increase since 2019.
Meanwhile, local processors have been complaining that it is becoming harder to source cassava in sufficient quantities as competition increases for the root crop. Previously it was reported that a drink manufacturer had withdrawn from making beer with the root. Now it is the producers of bammy who say they are in somewhat of a pickle.
Dale Crooks, factory manager at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA)-operated bammy factory in Twickenham Park, St Catherine, told the Jamaica Observer, "We use thousands of pounds of cassava, anywhere between 80,000 to 90,000 pounds monthly, if we get international orders. Fifty thousand pounds is needed for local demand. Most of our international orders are from the United States. We have been experiencing difficulty in sourcing adequate supplies."
Roger Lyn, director of marketing and corporate affairs at Rainforest Caribbean, also commented on the difficulty in sourcing cassava as a raw material but noted that the company is working with a supplier who streamlines farmers.
"We deal with a cooperative in St Thomas. The company farm in Trelawny produces cassava but not enough. It's difficult to work with individuals."
He expounded, "Cassava is a nine-month crop and requires good weather. Yield is a factor because there is drought and water [too much rainfall] which affect this. Being a nine-month crop, if everyone plants [cassava] at the same time it cannot help the industry. Cassava has no shelf life. The cooperatives we work with stagger the planting time of farmers participating."
However, he admitted cassava farmers are also affected by the fluctuation in demand and supply with prices go up and down.
"There are also quality standards. Often, the quality is poor. More needs to be done at the level of education around the farming of cassava for better quality," he stated, adding that consistency in supply has been a challenge.
He concluded, "Hopefully as demand continues to rise, producers will see the need to ramp up the planting of cassava. It needs a lot more. Everyone is working their connections to see who they can get cassava from. It's one of the challenges manufacturers face."
Bammies are responsible for the lion's share of revenue from product exports. In 2019, total exports of dried cassava and bammy were valued at US$680, 529. Bammy exports as a segment was US$665,066.
In 2020 bammy and cassava exports valued at US$1.21 million were exported, representing a significant increase as the novel coronavirus pandemic got underway.
Dried cassava was sold to Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States with cassava flour sold to Trinidad and Tobago. Bammy exported to Barbados, Australia, Canada, the Cayman Islands, St Maarten, the United Kingdom and the United States in that year was valued at US$1.1 million.
Preliminary data for 2021 indicates that bammy sales surged to US$1.24 million with an additional increase in export markets. Export destinations last year were Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, the Cayman Islands, St Lucia, French St Martin, Dutch St Maarten, the United Kingdom, and USA.
In 2021, over US$1 million in bammy products were exported to the main markets of the United States and the United Kingdom. In 2020 exports to these destinations were US$965,573. Export value of bammies to the UK and US in 2019 was US$543,285.
RADA revolutionised the bammy industry in 2004 by introducing a wide array of cassava products, leading companies impressed by their products to follow suit.
Located on the campus of the Farmers Training Centre at Twickenham Park, Twickenham Bammy Industries produces a wide variety of products from cassava including bammies, pancake mix, gari, and cassava flour for the local and export markets. They also make pancake syrups made from fruits, such as guava, mango, Otaheite apple, jackfruit, and pineapple.