Kumasi — Right Rev. Professor Osei Sarfo Kantanka, a renowned crop scientist has attributed the poor quality of cassava in Ghana, which has led to its scarcity, to a phenomenal change in weather.
The science Professor told a Chronicle enquiry about the reason for the poor quality of cassava on the Ghanaian market. He said in Ghana, when there is a switch from the dry season to the early stages of the rainy season, growth of cassava is retarded.
"In this circumstance, many cassava varieties shed off their leaves and become inactive and dormant, while there are others which are able to stand this change in weather", Professor Osei Sarfo Kantanka explained.
He said: "When cassava doesn't grow and the rains start falling, every farmer is aware there is a flash of new growth which comes with new leaves".
The crop scientist told this paper that when the flash of new growth emerges the cassava mobilises the starch reserved in the tuber to produce a new flash of growth and when it does, that affects the composition of the tuber.
"When you go for the tuber at the onset of the rainy season, the composition is not the same as that of the dry season tuber and the resultant cassava becomes affected, so when cooked, it is either too soft or too hard and cannot be used for fufu", he said.
He revealed that the bad quality of cassava will happen until the weather stabilizes and until they produce their own food to be stored in the tuber, stressing it is a phenomenon widely known by farmers and chop bar operators since during this season a lot of cassava go waste.
Prof. Sarfo Kantanka, who is the immediate past Bishop of the Kumasi Diocese of the Methodist Church of Ghana, told The Chronicle the ultimate aim is to plant cassava which has stable cooking qualities to withstand the weather change.
According to him, this variety is not very common and that once in a while one comes across a variety which can stand the change in weather.
At the moment "No new variety has emerged, it is the same old one which is reacting to the change in weather", he asserted.
The former genetics lecturer of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) indicated that because of the change in weather phenomenon, plant breeders always prefer varieties of maize which can withstand change in weather.
The academician also equated the change in cooking cassava to soil condition which makes the temperature around the tuber uniform, adding if you can keep the soil; it also has the tendency to maintain the cooking quality. He said temperature is a contributing factor in maintaining quality. "Mulching can also maintain the soil temperature", he said, adding that: "If you weed to reach the soil, temperature varies than not weeding, which keeps the tubers quite cool and the quality may remain as the temperature is maintained.
Following the poor quality of cassava, the price of cassava has soared, a development which has resulted in upward adjustment of the cost of fufu, a staple delicacy for majority of Ghanaians. The situation is a worry to many chop bar operators.
In an interaction with Madam Serwaa, a chop bar operator at Asafo, a suburb of Kumasi, she lamented about the cost of cassava, saying a bag of cassava now costs GHc150.
According to her, most of the cassava that she cooks is either too hard or too soft, which cannot be used for preparing fufu.
Serwaa noted she has no option than to increase the price of fufu from GHc2.00 to GHc3.00 because cassava is now expensive. The high cost of cassava has, therefore, compelled many households to switch from their staple fufu to rice and other dishes.