The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), through the financial support of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), is implementing a three-year project to improve the production, processing and marketing of sweet potato in the Region.
The CDB will provide USD 600,000.00, with CARDI providing counterpart funding of USD 210,000. The project will be implemented in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana and St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the results will be shared across the Region. In addition, morphological and molecular characterisation work in Belize and Cayman Islands will also support this project.
Sweet potato is an important local food source for Caribbean people and a priority research commodity for CARDI. However, in spite of the agronomic and value chain improvements, the regional industry is still beset with challenges. Regional production is lagging behind when compared to other regions of the world. Additionally, farmers and processors are not adequately equipped to meet the demands of the modern consumer and address product safety standards and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements, for intra-regional trade. This situation prohibits them from accessing high-value food markets for fresh and processed products.
Using a market-led approach, a value chain analysis will be conducted to analyse the gaps and identify opportunities for market linkages and investments. A complementary research component will identify and make available climate-resilient varieties for production and processing.
The aforementioned interventions will inform the development of a series of agriculture multimedia extension aids. Targeting farmers and other stakeholders along the sweet potato value chain, these aids will demonstrate best practices in sweet potato cultivation, processing and value-added product development. The goal is to increase the production and consumption of sweet potato.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the region’s food insecurity into the spotlight. According to Executive Director, Barton Clarke, ‘the region’s dependence on imported food to meet our daily subsistence is both worrying and unacceptable. Projects like this are an opportunity for Caribbean countries to make significant strides towards increasing their production of traditional commodities, placing them on the path to achieving food and nutrition security.’
CARDI remains committed to working with all stakeholders to improve the Region’s self-sufficiency whilst, exploiting our full production potential in a sustainable manner.