Breads made from root-crops to be available soon
June 2, 2015
Breads made from root-crops to be available soon

by: Adrian Codogan

In less than one month’s time, consumers in St Vincent and the Grenadines should be able to purchase at our bakeries, products made locally from composite cassava and sweet potato flour.

Last Wednesday, four bakers, all females, graduated from a training {{more}}programme held for bakers, in the production of breads and bakery products using grated cassava and sweet potato.

The programme’s closing ceremony was held at the National Insurance Services conference room at Upper Bay Street, while the training took place at Allan Smith Family Bakery at Campden Park Industrial Estate, under the supervision of master baker and Caribbean Agribusiness Association (CABA) consultant Rex Collymore of Healthy Carbs Programme and Bakery Investments Opportunity.

One of the trainees, June Knights, a farmer of Dorsetshire Hill, said she began producing farine from cassava eight years ago. As the person who supplied the cassava and sweet potatoes for the training programme, Knights told SEARCHLIGHT she is very excited about the project, as she now has other products she can add to the farine. She also noted that the use of grated cassava and sweet potato in baked products would increase demand for root crops, therefore benefiting farmers and the economy on a whole.

Daffodil Grant, another of the trainees, said she developed a love for baking as a child, watching her mother bake in drum ovens. She said she had been trained in baking at an OAS funded course at the YWCA and worked at Yanks Bakery at Kingstown Hill until it was taken over by Aunt Jobe’s supermarket bakery 10 years ago. Now the bakery manager at Super J supermarket, Grant said the training will be useful in her work and she looks forward to putting potato and cassava composite breads on the shelves of Super J supermarket in the near future.

Elizabeth Laborde and Anna Phillips grew up in Troumaca and have been baking together since they were children. They now they work together at Phillip’s Bakery in Kingstown. Phillips told SEARCHLIGHT that in about one month’s time, composite cassava and sweet potato baked products will be available at her establishment.

In his presentation, master baker Collymore implored the persons present to learn to value what would develop the country.

“Consider what you have in your backyard and farms and consider it as a means of carrying forward your country; you can create your own special patties and market them to the wealthy tourist that comes to the region.”

He said that he was impressed with the quality of cassava and potato that was used during the training and the assistance and generosity of the management and staff at Allan’s Bakery, along with the optimism of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Composite loaves and dinner rolls were made using cassava and sweet potatoes, while sweetbread was made using cassava. The finished products have a consistency and texture that is indistinguishable from products made from wheat flour. The cassava and sweet potatoes were grated and pureed and added wet to the wheat flour, amounting to 40 per cent of the mix, according to Collymore.

Given that imported staples constitute a significant percentage of the food import bill of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), it is also recognized that local consumers have developed a preference for these imported staples and highly refined carbohydrates.

In 2011, wheat imported into SVG accounted for 13.5 per cent of agricultural imports costing nine million US dollars; SVG is also the largest exporter of root crops in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

The consumption of refined staples has been identified as a major contributing factor to chronic non-communicable diseases, leading to an urgent need to encourage greater consumption of regional staples, which have high contents of complex carbohydrates and fibre.

The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), Caribbean Agribusiness Association (CABA) are collaborating to encourage greater consumption of regional staples through the development of value added products and the training of local entrepreneurs in the production of those products. Support is also being provided by the the Intra ACP (African Caribbean and Pacific) Agricultural Policy Programme Project which is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Inter American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture and (IICA) and CARICOM in the region.

As part of the strategy to increase the consumption of regional staples, CABA has been working with public and private sector entities to produce a range of value added (chilled, frozen, shelf stable) products aimed at local, regional and extra regional markets.

CABA has also entered an agreement with FAO, CARDI, IICA and the CARICOM Secretariat to implement this strategy, starting with the training of bakers in the production of composite breads comprising wheat flour and staples such as cassava, sweet potatoes and plantains and in promoting consumer awareness of these products.

Training has already been done in Grenada, Belize, Barbados and Dominica.

Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar also spoke at last Wednesday’s ceremony.