Building a sustainable and profitable dasheen value chain in the Eastern Caribbean

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In February, CARDI Representative in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Greg Linton participated in an assessment of the dasheen value chain for the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is activity is part of a cluster of regional projects, launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) that aims to boost local production and export of agricultural produce through Regional Value Chain Development. FAO’s Caribbean Value Chain team facilitated these discussions which were attended by 50 stakeholders including farmers, exporters and government representatives from the above mentioned countries.


Greg Linton contributed to the session on Production & Post-Harvest opportunities and weaknesses. During his presentation he expounded on the post-harvest issues such as corm rot caused by a complex of fungi ( Pythium and Botryodiplodia), and bacteria ( Erwinia). These enter wounds created during harvesting and handling, and hamper marketing of the crop. The Institute through funding provided by the Committee Linking Entrepreneurship – Agriculture – Development (COLEAD) is working with the Eastern Caribbean Trading Agriculture and Development Organisation (ECTAD) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation Industry and Labour (MAFFRTIL) to test more environmentally friendly based pesticides such as lime sulphur, Bacillus subtilis and potassium salts of phosphoric acid as potential post-harvest treatment options.


Metalaxyl, the single most important post- harvest treatment for dasheen going to extra  regional markets such as Europe, has been banned from the European Union (EU) and may subsequently be banned in the United Kingdom (UK). The UK and France have been receiving monthly shipments of 600 and 900 boxes respectively of dasheen from St Vincent and the Grenadines, but more can be accepted once supplies are available. In 2019, CARDI and MAFFRTIL conducted preliminary tests on a locally-produced lime sulphur base organic treatment, which protected 70% of the exported corms. According to Linton, “It is important to identify alternative, organically based post- harvest treatment options to secure these European markets especially in France where demand for St Vincent dasheen is extremely high. If an intervention is not made soon then there is the possibility of losing the market.”


Prior to the FAO assessment a one day Value Chain Consultation with over 150 dasheen farmers was hosted by MAFFRTIL. Key distributors in Florida, and Trinidad gave their experiences as well as insights into accessing these markets.


Under the EU financed International Network for Edible Aroids (INEA) project – “Adapting clonally propagated crops to climatic and commercial change” CARDI evaluated 50 dasheen genotypes from the Pacific. From these, 3 genotypes – CE/ IND/24, Somoana and a purple variety showed great promise. The success of CE/IND/24 and Samoana in St Vincent has prompted interest from many CARICOM countries. These new genotypes have the advantage of faster growth, drought and disease tolerance, as well as acceptable taste and texture. The main market for these new genotypes has been Trinidad, with growing interest from North America and Europe.