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Pres Granger supports wider use of cassava flour but wary of political resistance

Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge; President David Granger and Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Audrey Jardine- Waddell.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge; President David Granger and Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Audrey Jardine- Waddell.

President David Granger agrees that Guyanese should use more cassava and other gluten-free flours because they are healthier but he forecasts that his administration will face political resistance if there is no broad agreement.

“I think at this stage we probably need to develop a more consensual approach,” he said during an interactive session with Guyana’s newly appointed ambassadors at the end of their one-week orientation workshop.

Granger was at the time responding to a suggestion by Ambassador to Geneva, Dr. John ‘Deep’ Forde-who is a former Caribbean Representative for the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)- that there should be an Integrated Economic Policy involving the public and private sectors in the use of domestic commodities such as cassava flour.

The President suggested that for the use of sweet potato and cassava flour to become a firmly held belief in Guyana’s public sector perhaps they should be widely used in hospitals, the Guyana Defence Force and the  Guyana Prison Service.

Back in the 1980s, wheaten flour, split peas, onions, garlic, milk, sardines, corned beef and other food items had been banned by the then People’s National Congress (PNC)-led administration of then President Forbes Burnham. The government then had promoted the use of locally produced substitutes including cassava, rice, plantain and corn flours.

Granger is also the leader of the PNC-Reform which was also responsible for the return of most of those previously banned or restricted items after Burnham died in 1985 and his successor, Hugh Desmond Hoyte, abandoned the socialist experiment and embraced a market economy system.

Reflecting on that period, President Granger said it had become a political football. “You’re right! People are moving away from gluten, they want healthy foods and this is a policy we pushed very forcefully but the government of the day was resisted and it did become a political issue to use rice flour, cassava flour.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge added that part of the challenge was that people had very strong views about things. “Sometimes those views are actually ill-informed if not ignorant. The idea, for example, that there is something called let’s say dahl , it’s made in this way and any variation from this way is a threat either by religious or ethnic..” Greenidge said a national plan would be crafted this year and it should be supported by Development Support Communication. “There is some promotional and awareness raising so that people move away from these intolerant and ignorant by and large positions either what is desirable or what is the product,” he said. He noted that in India and other countries there are several types of flour other than wheaten flour and dahl other than those made from split peas.

The then opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had capitalized on the food bans and restrictions by reinforcing to, among others, its mainly East Indian support base that the PNC was  depriving it of roti and dahl.

Ironically, up to May 2015 when the PPP-Civic lost the elections, then Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy had been considering various initiatives to increase the production and consumption of cassava flour as part of a Caribbean Community (Caricom) food security initiative.

Noting that he recently appealed to farmers at Parika to sell more of their sweet potatoes to fast food restaurants, President Granger said greater efforts must be made to increase the consumption of locally produced food.

“I don’t think we are doing enough but more can be done that in that regard but in order to push it in the private sector and – there will be political resistance as well- but this something we can overcome but I agree with you more could be done,” he said. He added that there was no mechanism in place for Dr. Forde’s suggested integrated economic approach.

Ambassador to Geneva, Dr. John "Deep" Forde.

Ambassador to Geneva, Dr. John “Deep” Forde.

Ambassador Forde noted that Barbados’ largest bakery, Purity Bread, uses 40 percent cassava flour and 60 percent wheaten flour to produce more than 62 percent of its bread and four coffee shops on that Caribbean island sell 100 percent cassava carambola muffin with the carambola being imported from Guyana.

“The emphasis here for me and the point I am trying to make is  the public policy leadership that says every prison, every hospital, every school must be using bread that is forty percent cassava, must be utilizing our domestic commodities,” said Forde.

He highlighted the importance of government telling large investors coming to Guyana that they must be committed to a socio-economic cohesion policy that is geared to bringing Guyanese out of poverty and spreading the wealth across the nation.

 

  • Yes ,all Restaurant chains open ingrid in Guyana must be committed to using a certain amount of local produce……
    I remember at the opening of a recent new restaurant, the boast was their food was prepared from imported stuff.

    • Col123

      You pay good money to eat at restaurants where the menu is not the same as home..Well salt and rice will soon hit those menu at home and those restaurants…

  • Col123

    Good thinking Hon Pres and Hon Greenidge . Dahl should be the first item to be banned. The Hon PM Naggaraman will be able to get rid of his dahl belly … And can better model that Armani. It is important also that our Indo friends would produce less gas from lack of Dahl, and prevent climate change …The President in his dreams would need to tell those cassava producers how he will prevent flooding to their crops..also , he is behind in his perfunctory speech on social contusion ..

  • Col123

    You should be charged for cruelty to animals bro…my dog would only eat labba meat..

  • ExPPP_Man

    Those of you who doubt Jesus will return, better reconsider your position, because if the devil Burnham can return so soon, so can he.

  • rs dasai

    Hey Guiryls
    Mr. Granger says that he ‘supports’ the wider use , not that he will ban any items. It will not be ‘enforced’ and he is aware that it is the citizens’ choice like the ‘referendum’ on hanging. Give him the benefit of his idea.

  • Gtloyal

    Many years ago, when wheat flour was a banned item in Guyana, I was living in a foreign country where I accommodated a few newly arrived countrymen. One day, as we were enjoying our meals, they kept commenting about the shortages back home and how I was getting everything where I was and did not have to eat cassava flour and get “white mouth”. Not wanting to be a spoil sport I waited until they had finished their meal to show them what was written on the plastic bag that the bread they were eating came in. It said: “Cassava flour. Made in Colombia. Imported by ….” They couldn’t believe it. They themselves agreed that when compared to wheat, there was no noticeable difference. Never heard them “bad talk” cassava flour again. They continued to buy it regularly.

  • Gtloyal

    Most of Guyana’s indoguyanese population are inclined to criticize cassava flour severely and unfavorably. Yet we see that the most productive cassava farms in the world are in India, with a nationwide average yield of around 34.8 tonnes per hectare. In Tamil Nadu, India, there are many cassava processing factories. Cassava is widely cultivated and eaten as a staple food in Andhra Pradesh and in Kerala. In Assam it is an important source of carbohydrates especially for natives of hilly areas.

    • Col123

      Good pick up from Wiki Leaks…a place for not so valid references!! Just so you understand that the majority of those Indo Guyanese are from north India where root cultivation products are mostly limited to potatoes. BTW…the variations in staple around India are just as much as the varying religious practices, languages,cultural, political,architect .etc..cassava will have a tough time returning to flood the market place as it was in the 50’s ,60’s and 70’s. the folks who planted then are mostly the “the bandits living in Queens”.. as the lands were leased out to sugar cane farming..

      • Gtloyal

        You don’t seem to know your own country. Guyana is not limited to the sugar estates. Now, what is the point of your comment? I do not know who are bandits and who are not. I do not know what will have a tough time and what will not. I am not God. What I know is that cassava flour is not a bad idea. Yours ideas may be better, try them.

        • Col123

          In simple English : those cassava producing areas were mostly converted to individual cane farming…

          • Gtloyal

            Let’s start planting wheat in Berbice since nothing else seem to be good enough for you. That OK with you?

          • Col123

            Yea.. get some of your Osu caste boys to invest. Them Indos are just trying to sabotage everything

          • Gtloyal

            Do you have something against Nigeria’s Osu tribe? Is that how far your racial sentiments have taken you? Not surprising after listening to your idol speak in New York.

          • Col123

            FYI..I have Mandingo blood in my heritage . Tell me how many Indos can make it to Colonel in the US Army. Mohamed Ali was my last idol .. the others died off. Guyanese and my African brothers have a great chance to live together .. but these blogs of you and others say otherwise . We have done much harm to our Osu folks in the past..Afro Guyanese does not even know that the caste system exists worldwide … having its genesis in Greek and Latin , the word does not exist in Indians religious books…

          • Gtloyal

            You may be Kunta Kinte or Colonel Sanders for all I care. Maybe I am of general officer rank. And I will never judge people by their race nor feel superior to any as you give the impression you do, shown clearly in your question of “how many Indos can make it to Colonel in the US Army …” permit me to refer you to the likes of Vice Admiral Vivek Hallegere Murthy or Captain, USN Sunita Williams.
            What you are trying to convey or trying to prove is beyond me. Your comments are based on the childlike assumption that you know everything. They are petty and with little likelihood of persuasion, and now racist, thus not even deserving of replies. Have a nice day.

  • eddie

    Mr. President this is a very good idea or should I say a fantastic idea but your party PNC demonized this concept when we were all ignorant of it and you had the chance when you ascend to power to use your good office and start the healing process of this country but you went on a witch hunt of the opposition as your top priority so you see how this have come back to haunt you,,,, if the trust was shown and started no one and that include you as you allude to would have look to the stigma but the benefit……. and you know what I am talking about ,,,,,, now the opposition will have a field day with this and instead of beneficial habits for the Guyanese we will have the steady dose of the hatred and division and for you Mr. President it never too late to start the healing process,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,your move

    • Col123

      I could not understand why he raised an issue of “political resistance ” in this simple scenario. He could have just alluded to these local products as a means of food economics and just pledge his support for local producers in a meaningful way. Guyana has the resources and wherewithal for self sufficiency in food…all he needed to do was to push it in a subtle diplomatic way..

      • eddie

        LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!! all he needed to do was to push it in a subtle diplomatic way…..
        our world today lack the people to work this way he has company Donald Trump,,,, they shoot from the hip then denied they say that

  • Surujpaul Rampersaud

    Nice political talk. Are we going to import cassava flour or are we going to produce it? Do we expect housewives to begin grating cassava or are going to do commercial production that has the related shelf life. Many people do not like changes but changes do catch on with time. In the days when Burnham banned wheaten flour, my mother like many other mothers experimented with converted rice, cassava and even breadfruit into flour. It was very time consuming for her but we enjoyed what she made.

  • Surujpaul Rampersaud

    I agree that people have a right of choice but they also have a right to be informed on good eating habits. We are being told about too much sugary stuff and too much carbs