Small-and-medium Enterprises (SMEs) and other players in cassava value chain have been urged to embrace agro-processing to improve quality, product marketability and their earnings.
According to Dr George Nyombaire, the head of research and development co-ordination at National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA), value-addition presents SMEs immense opportunities "given the various uses of cassava and its products for industries and other sectors".
Nyombaire noted that processing also helps increase the shelf life of cassava and cassava products. Citing starch extracted from cassava roots, he said cassava is widely used in the manufacture of pharmaceutical and food products, which he said ensures a steady market for dealers.
He was speaking during a continental workshop training on how to improve quality in the cassava value chain among SME players in Kigali recently.
The training attracted 18 SME participants from nine African countries: Rwanda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Malawi, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, and Sierra Leone.
The training aimed at equipping them with requisite skills and allow sharing of best practices in the cassava value chain.
Speaking at the end of the three-day event, which was organised by the African Union in Kigali, Nyombaire also emphasised that cassava, as a food and industrial crop, can play an important role in the economic growth of Africa.
He, however, noted that SMEs and big industrial players in Africa face a challenge of lack of sufficient raw material (cassava roots), leading to cassava processing factories to operate below capacity.
He said the problem is compounded by the use of poor processing equipment. This, he said, impacts on the quality of the final products and exposes consumers to health risks.
Participants were trained on how to improve the quality of processed cassava starting from the time cassava roots are harvested to the point the final product is dispatched from the factory. They also learnt how to access market for cassava-based products.
They also visited Kinazi in Ruhango District, which they said provided them a good learning model, thanks to its state-of-the art cassava processing factory.
Speaking at the end of the workshop, the head of trade and industry at the African Union Commission, Hussein Hassan Hussein, said the training sought to update SMEs in the cassava value chain on the new industry trends and encourage them to focus on value addition to be competitive.
Most of the participants interviewed by this newspaper said the training will help improve their processing techniques and, ultimately, enhance quality of cassava based products in their respective countries.