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Food Security: Processing cassava for sustainable development in emerging countries.

05.07.2012 In Africa, cassava is the second most important food staple, after maize, in terms of calories consumed. Several countries are gradually replacing wheat flour with cassava flour for the production of staples like bread, biscuits, pasta or noodles. In collaboration with customers and research partners Bühler evaluates the options for efficient processing technologies to ensure that the quality of cassava flour is stable. In 2050, more than 9 billion people will live on this planet – this is mainly due to very strong population growth in Asia and Africa. Africa has the highest growing birth rate in the world. At the same time, water resources are becoming scarce and in certain regions we are already seeing the impact of climate change on soil erosion with some dryness periods, resulting in harvest losses and supply shortages which leads to highly volatile crop prices in the short term and a steady increase in food prices in the long term.

To ensure food security and to feed the world today and even more in the future, we need different approaches to tackle these topics. For Bühler as a leading technology partner for the milling industry, this is not only a question of corporate social responsibility. It is about being part of developing the local food value chain in a more global economy to help ensure food security today and in the future.

In Africa cassava is the second most important food staple, after maize, in terms of calories consumed. The starchy roots are a major source of dietary energy for more than 500 million people. In the early 1960s, Africa accounted for 42 percent of world cassava production. Today Africa’s world cassava output is over fifty percent, primarily because Nigeria and Ghana increased their production four fold. Nigeria replaced Brazil as the world’s leading cassava producer. An incentive for farmers to grow cassava is that cassava produces higher yields per land-unit than other crops such as yams, wheat, rice or maize.

Several African countries are gradually replacing wheat flour with cassava flour from 10 to 40 percent for the production of staples like bread, biscuits, pasta or noodles. However, there is also increased awareness that excessive reliance on cassava could lead to malnutrition in these countries, since the tubers are rather poor in protein, vitamins A and E, iron, and zinc.

While in highly industrialized countries, efficient food value chains from field to fork have been established, in many African countries, they exist only partially or to a great extend not at all. Therefore the use of cassava is not only a question of processing technology and using cassava flour in food products, it is also about setting incentives and building up expertise in developing the local value chain for a constant supply of cassava. In collaboration with our customers and research partners, Bühler evaluates the options for efficient processing technologies to produce a stable cassava flour quality and investigates potential applications in bread, biscuits, pasta and snacks with a balanced nutritional value. The combination of the appropriate, gentle processing technologies of Bühler’s grain and food processing divisions and their specific application expertise opens up the opportunity to produce finished goods that incorporate cassava, which are of excellent quality and have higher consumer acceptance.

Bread with hydrothermal treated cassava flour.

At a forum at the FAO headquarters in Rome, some 80 agricultural experts from 22 countries were asked whether cassava had the potential not only to meet the food security needs of the estimated 500 million farmers who grow it, but to play a key role in rural industrial development and higher incomes for producers, processors and traders. The forum concluded: “Cassava could become the raw material base for an array of processed products that will effectively increase demand for cassava and contribute to agricultural transformation and economic growth in developing countries”.

Bühler is an active partner of the Flour Fortification Initiative.

Walter von Reding
Corporate Development Nutrition Solutions
Bühler Uzwil, Switzerland

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