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Papua New Guinea has the opportunity to develop a new commercial agricultural market for the production of starch from cassava, according to International Finance Corporation, IFC, a member of the World Bank Group.
IFC’s private sector partner’s work was named as the winner of the Large Organization category of the inaugural Innovation PNG 2019 Awards.
Announcing the award, the judges noted the cassava project has a massive scope and innovation both in agribusiness and product development.
“This imaginative and complex program is the first cassava project in the country and has the potential to encourage others to replace imports with locally grown produce, delivering a positive economic impact,” the judges said.
In Papua New Guinea, a country where about 80 percent of the population relies solely on agriculture for their food and income, the commercial cassava market is very small, grown mainly as a subsistence crop and traded in very limited volumes.
The award, which was presented in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby, was for organizations with more than 10 employees. SP Brewery’s project includes the production of cassava for a new beverage manufactured at its cassava factory in Erap, in the Markham Valley.
IFC signed a partnership agreement with SP Brewery in August 2018 for the innovative project, with the starch initially to be used to substitute imported ingredients in beverage production. The project aims to create a new industry and boost farmers’ incomes.
SP Brewery, a subsidiary of Heineken, spent four years testing ways to produce starch in Papua New Guinea. After extensive tests, it settled on a limited number of cassava varieties as the best source of starch. IFC works with Heineken in Burundi and Ethiopia. This project marks the first in the Pacific.
“The SP Brewery Cassava project demonstrates how an innovative approach to agribusiness can create new markets and opportunities,” said IFC’s Country Manager for the Pacific, Thomas Jacobs. “It shows the potential of Papua New Guinea’s rich agricultural base and ultimately means a locally grown product can replace an imported one, with the creation of a new industry.”
A key aspect of IFC’s work with SP Brewery is the focus on helping around 450 smallholder farmers to grow the desired new cassava crops. These farmers are being provided with training to learn new skills that will help them boost productivity and better manage their farms. In the first phase, the plan is to ensure that at least 50 percent of trained farmers are women.
SP Brewery first identified the potential of starch from cassava for its beer produced in Papua New Guinea back in 2014. A year later, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Agriculture and Livestock to set up a nursery in Erap in Markham Valley and developed plans for a factory to convert cassava into starch.
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