Alexander at the Heart of Farine Baking
March 3, 2006

Alexander at the Heart of Farine Baking

At least one farmer is trying relentlessly to keep the traditional processing of cassava into farine alive. Dorothy Alexander has been processing farine for some 40 years now. {{more}}

“I started helping my mother Ezel Joseph washing cassava and processing it into farine since I was around eight years old, since then I have been in this business.”

Alexander recalls waking up on mornings to “ring” cassava (squeeze the juice out), before going school.

With her knowledge of processing the product, taking over the family tradition after her mother’s passing was the expected option. She has no regrets about making that decision after so many years.

“One thing I can say, I have no regrets getting into farine baking, because cassava build my home, educated my children…when I have cassava I have food,” Alexander mentioned.

Using cassava to produce farine, she said, is a family tradition that has now turned into a viable business. She said her family continues to play an important role in ensuring the production process is continued.

Though Alexander’s business is a small Cottage Industry, her products are attracting regional attention. The farine processor now targets overseas markets in Grenada and Anguilla for her products.

With a grant of some $6000 from the Agriculture Ministry’s Diversification Unit, Alexander is now looking to expand her farine factory into a larger production enterprise. With this financial injection she is boasting of producing over 500 pounds of farine per week once her expansion is completed.

“Right now I am only producing about 200 pounds per week, I am now going to start to use labels on packages and try to get into the local market through supermarket sales,” Alexander said.

With the intention of expanding her production her main problem is an inadequate supply of cassava.

“My main problem right now is getting a constant supply of cassava. I can’t get cassava because farmers stop planting,” she said.

The mother of nine is also hoping to diversify her production, by bringing on stream new varieties of cassava products. “I am planning to manufacture biscuits, bread and other variety from Cassava. But I want to be sure there is a market, I am appealing to the government to access these markets for us small producers.”

Alexander said the implementation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) is a welcome initiative of which she would be glad to be a part.

“Through my expansion I would have to come up to standard. That is why I am going to use labels and improve my packaging. I don’t mind the CSME. I would be able to take my product somewhere else while they (competition) come here. But I am asking Vincentians to buy local,” Alexander added.

While Alexander remains one of the few who still practise the art of processing farine, many associated with the industry are worried about the loss of such a traditional practice.

But if it is left to Alexander alone, farine will be something everyone has knowledge of processing.

“I am willing to teach others how to process the farine, free of charge, I don’t want anything from it. All I want to see is this tradition continue. Once there is something in place to allow me to assist in teaching this art I will gladly assist,” she concluded.