|Local farmers harvest cassava in northern mountainous Son La Province's Yen Chau District. — VNA/VNS Photo Ngoc Ha
HA NOI (VNS) — Cassava and yam play an important role in food and income security for farmers, but growers can suffer huge losses after harvesting and during processing if they fail to employ the proper methods.
Participants at a recent workshop discussed these losses, which could be up to 60 per cent of yam harvests and 30 per cent of cassava.
The workshop was held to review an EU-funded project to reduce such losses.
These could be physical as well as economic losses through discounting or processing low-value products.
Post-harvest physical losses were exceptionally high and occurred throughout the food chain from being on-farm, trading, transport and handling in processing, distribution, retail and consumption, said Ben Bennett from the Natural Resources Institute under the UK's University of Greenwich.
Losses in economic value were also high, he said. For example, cassava prices came down by up to 80 per cent within a couple of days of the harvest.
In Viet Nam, around 28 per cent of cassava is affected by economic losses. Losses from bio-wastes come in various forms. For example, peeling losses can be between 15 and 20 per cent.
Under the three-year project GRATITUDE ("Gains from losses of root and tuber crops"), starting in January 2012, there were concerted efforts to improve the post-harvest management of cassava and yams, thus leading to reduced physical losses, economic losses through valued-added processing and valorisation of waste products.
GRATITUDE focuses on finding new ways of reducing waste during the production of food crops, developing new products such as snack foods from the crops and seeking new markets.
There were three main outputs that address the postharvest losses for this project, said Director Keith Tomlins.
These included reduction of physical losses by implementing better storage, valued additions and reduction of physical and economic losses in yam and cassava processing through new processing and management methods.
The project would also focus on using waste such as peels, liquid waste, and spent brewery waste, so that higher value products could be produced for human consumption, including snacks, mushrooms and animal feed, he said.
The impact of these interventions would be to reduce postharvest losses by 50 per cent, he said.
The project brings together 16 project partners from Ghana, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Viet Nam. It received close to 3 million euros of funding from the ‘Food, agriculture and fisheries, and biotechnology' Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
It started by launching pilot schemes to reduce waste in Nigeria, Ghana, Viet Nam and Thailand.
Currently in Viet Nam, cassava is used to produce starch on a significant scale, which generates a lot of waste. Also produced is low-grade cassava flour that is manufactured from dried cassava chips and used for non-food applications.
An alternative to these products, suggested by the Gratitude Project, is the production of High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) that produces less waste than the starch process and could also be used for food applications.
One of the products that can be made using HQCF as an ingredient is bread, a popular commodity in Viet Nam.
Part of the research under the project looks at the consumer acceptance of bread made with HQCF as a partial substitute for wheat flour.
At the School of Biotechnology and Food Technology under the Ha Noi University of Science and Technology (HUST), HQCF bread was produced on a trial basis. Preliminary results showed that the bread containing HQCF was almost equally as acceptable as the bread made with 100 per cent wheat flour.
The results obtained from this study will be the basis for the School of Biotechnology and Food Technology at HUST to collaborate with manufacturers in cassava processing, with the goal of developing markets for HQCF. — VNS