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Other flours can aid fight against non-communicable diseases

IICA’s Representative to Barbados, Ena Harvey.

Other flours- cassava, sweet potato and breadfruit- are increasingly being regarded as major weapons in the fight against diabetes and other non—communicable diseases, according to a top agricultural expert.

International Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) Representative to Barbados, Ena Harvey said her organisation was pushing the use of high-fibre root crops in the Caribbean as part of a regional food and nutrition security.

“Root crops are very high in fibre, low glycemic content so that they are good for diabetes-based diets, and you know we have a tsunami of non-communicable diseases here in the Caribbean so we are looking to get persons to use more root crop-based foods,” she told Demerara Waves Online News ahead of the Pacific-Caribbean Agriculture-Food Forum on Agriculture which begins Monday in Barbados.

Harvey said people suffering from colon cancer, diabetes and hypertension were seeking healthy diets such as the use of those flours. Statistics show that more than 35 percent of youths and more than 50 percent of women in the Caribbean are clinically obese.

“This is really making people sober up and young people are dying of stroke and heart attack,” she said.

The Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation’s (BADMC) Food Production Unit, with support from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), has been manufacturing cassava, sweet potato and breadfruit flours for commercial consumption. Purity Bakery in Barbados has been producing bread with 40 percent cassava flour. “It is a substitution and we are finding there is no change in taste, and the taste is very acceptable,” she said.

In an effort to push healthier food consumption, organizers of the forum will this week bring together chefs to secure their commitments to use local agricultural produce for the benefit of tourists, the health and well-being of Caribbean tourists.

The IICA Representative in Barbados, who is very familiar with Guyana, was unsure why the production and use of other flours in that country has not kicked off although the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST) had done preliminary work decades ago on the use of alternative flours. “I’m not sure and the indigenous flours started in Guyana with the IAST and CARIRI (Caribbean Industrial Research Institute) used Guyana’s information for the composite flours that we used about thirty years ago,” said Harvey.

She said much depended on getting the right price and pushing the right reasons. “In terms of catching on, it is all about getting the price-point and changing people’s eating habits and presenting the food in a way that people would say ‘ wow, I didn’t know this was cassava, I didn’t know this was breadfruit,’” she said.

Harvey said the numerous recipes that have been developed using other flours have to be linked with production, chefs, cooks and marketing. “It’s a whole change about life-style consciousness, about what we eat and our health,” she said.

The  Caribbean’s annual food import bill is about US$5 billion.

 The Pacific-Caribbean Agriculture-Food Forum is being supported by Barbados and the Netherlands-based Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).