Cassava Drying: Growers & Consumers Gain

A cassava-drying industry on the north coast of Colombia is increasing the income of the small farmers who manage the operation, and has saved consumers in Barranquilla, the country's fourth largest city, more than US$ 3.8 million.

Over the past five years this cassava drying industry has developed around farmer associations and cooperatives. Today there are 50 member organizations. The effort was supported by Colombia's Desarrollo Rural Integrado (DRI) and the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT).

Before the cassava drying project, prices fluctuated radically from year to year, making farmers reluctant to grow the crop. Price stabilization was a key component to the strategy to increase cassava production and reduce consumer prices. Government subsidies could have stabilized the price, but would have incurred great expenses. An alternative market,however, such as proccessing cassava for animal feed, would effectively establish a stable flour price.

The organizational structure was formed around farmers associations rather than a few entreprenurial individuals. Individuals would not invest in a cassava drying industry that would have to buy fresh cassava at high prices. A producers association would not encounter this problem, since the farmers associations which run the cassava drying industry allow farmers the option of either selling their cassava on the market when prices are high, or selling to the drying plant when the market is unfavorable.

Since the drying plants began operating the real price of cassava has fallen by 27%. Growers now produce cassava without the fear of widely fluctuating prices. In addition to selling fresh cassava, the associations sells about US $2 million of dried cassava in Columbia as a whole. The cassava drying industry has created a stable price for cassava which benefits both the growers and the consumers.

For more information contact:

Jack Reeves
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical
Apartado Aˇreo 6713
Telex: 05769