Government has commended the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for initiating a project to enhanced cassava production and processing in Luapula Province.
Luapula Province Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS) Blackson Ndhlovu said the program, which is funded by the Italian Trust Fund, targets over 5,000 casava farmers in Mansa, Samfya and Serenje districts.
Mr. Nhlovu said the program, which encourages more profitable cassava production systems, value addition and increased market access, would improve the living standards of many small rural households through raised income from the commercialisation of the product.
Speaking during the official opening of the production, processing and value addition training workshop organized by Program Against malnutrition (PAM) in Mansa today, the acting DPS said cassava production has increased to over one million metric tonnes per year due to the government root and tuber breeding program.
However, Mr. Ndhlovu said the benefits of the increased cassava yields have not been realized fully because of lack of market and inadqueate and inefficient processing methods.
He noted that of the one million metric tonnes of cassava produced in Zambia, only eight per cent of was being marketed mainly, to the urban markets or Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), while 92 per cent remains for domestic consumption.
“Because of lack of technology for rapid multiplication of improved cassava varieties and inconsistent supply of quality cassava products the majority of cassava growers have remained poor,” Mr. Ndhlobvu said.
He said there is need to increase the per centage of marketed cassava for the farmers to realize the benefit from selling the crop.
The acting DPS called on the cassava growers in Luapula to take advantage of the Tiger Stock Feeds and Zambezi Paper Mills who are buying cassava in the area for their industrial use.
Meanwhile, PAM Food and Nutrition Specialist, Maureen Chitundu, said the newly installed cassava milling plant in Mansda would be processing over one metric tone of cassava per month.
Ms. Chitundu said the mill, which was provided by PAM last year, would be fully functional in March this year.
Ms. Chitundu advised farmers to take advantage of the milling plant to process the product into flour and secure markets for identified markets.
She said a ten-day Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop was organized for cassava farmers and aricultural officers from Mansa, Samfya and Serenje districts.
Ms. Chitundu said the training would equip the farmers both traditional and improved methods on product of Cassava to meet the quality standards desired by buyers.
And Cassava Growers Network Association of Zambia Chairperson, Bright Mwagulu has appealed to government to raise the floor price of cassva to encourage more farmers produce the prduct.
Mr. Mwangulu said the current flow price of K300 per Kg was discouraging for farmers to produce the tuber on commercial basis.
He said many farmers have shunned entering into commercial cassava production because the floor price was not attractive.