Sweet Potato value chain analysis now available

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Component 1 of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) funded, ‘Regional Sweet Potato Value Chain Enhancement and Technology Transfer Project’ has concluded with the hosting of validation workshops in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Under Component 1, a value chain analysis was conducted and business cases developed for each of the project countries. These workshops were organised by the project implementing agency CARDI.

 

The analysis was conducted by Jamaican based firm AZ Information Jamaica Ltd. During the validation workshops the consultancy team which included Value Chain Specialist, Dr. Govind Seepersad and Agricultural Economist, Dr. Noel Watson gave an overview of study and then zeroed in on the findings and actions required for propelling the Sweet Potato Industry forward. Dr. Seepersad noted that sweet potato serves an important role in the small farmer food system, rural income generation, food security for households and provision of employment. It has become increasingly popular as “functional foods” in the consumer markets.

 

Sweet potato production in the surveyed countries is below its potential. The study found a significant difference between the actual and potential yields of sweet potato – by as much as 55% in some countries. The unavailability of desirable, good quality planting material, low access to credit, no access to irrigation technology, mechanization and pest and diseases were some of the challenges that continue to impact production. Farmers also lamented that the lack of market access is hindering investment in production and needs to be urgently addressed in the short term. While a lot of the sweet potato produced in the Caribbean is consumed fresh, post-harvest handling also needs to be tackled as losses can be as high as 60%. At the workshops farmers and processors were encouraged to explore entrepreneurial opportunities for value added product development, as it will enable them to capture a higher market value and increase their incomes. According to the consultants, women and youth should be targeted for these business start-ups.

 

Across all countries stronger coordination between stakeholders is needed to move the industry forward. To this end the formation of a Sweet Potato Action Group (SPAG) comprising of representatives from each section of the sweet potato value chain and including players from the Government, private sector and CARDI was proposed. The SPAG, inter alia will act as an industry governance/consultative body to the Government and donors, to guide and coordinate the implementation of actions towards the improvement of the sweet potato industry.

 

The findings from this study will inform the other 2 components of the project. Component 2, will validate climate-resilient varieties and genotypes, including strains that are high yielding, drought tolerant, disease resistant and suitable for processing. Component 3, will develop several communication aids to demonstrate and share knowledge on best practices in sweet potato cultivation, processing and value addition.