Cassava can be called a 'food security' crop because it gives stable yields even in the face of drought, helping families through the hungry periods. Cassava is the main root crop in Malawi and the staple food for over 30 percent of the population, especially for those living along the Lakeshore areas and the Shire highlands of Malawi.
The majority of cassava in Malawi is either boiled and eaten fresh, or traditionally processed into dried/fermented products. While traditional fermented cassava flour (kondowole) processing exists, the product is not suited for the same uses as HQCF. There is a medium term potential accessible demand for HQCF as a wheat flour substitute of ∼6,000 t / annum in Malawi. This includes rural bakery markets (total demand is 7,000 t/annum); and the packaging and food industries (specifically for use in biscuits) with an accessible demand in excess of 4,000 t/annum.
Given the market potential for HQCF in Malawi, C:AVA has taken forward the current strategy of a dual-track approach using both flash drying and sun drying to supply distinct market segments.
The rural bakery market is being targeted using sun drying produced by four main associations (together comprising of 179 groups with 2812 members) who now sell to multiple end-users. C:AVA has now reached 978 farmers and 102 processors. Bakeries are willing to pay higher prices (∼$600/t) for HQCF.
Start-up activities until 2011 included training of local fabricators in making and repairing graters and presses, which are essential in processing; and training of local bakers. In 2011-2012, representatives of VPGs, especially those from processing sub-committees at their respective groups, were trained in quality management systems. This training, facilitated by the food technologist from the Natural Resources Institute, intended to improve awareness of the importance of maintaining quality and how to manage it.
The packaging, biscuits and other food industry markets are being targeted with artificially-dried HQCF. Three serious investors in flash-drying technology, who are established food companies, were identified and they visited Nigeria from where the technology is being sourced. One of these investors is now expecting the delivery of a 4-cyclone flash dryer from Nigeria with support from the C:AVA project.
Demonstration and trials for using HQCF in packaging materials were successfully concluded in Oct 2010, opening up a potential 480-640t/annum market demand in Malawi and another 1,000t in regional markets at premium prices that would complement HQCF use in biscuit manufacture by the investors (1,600-6.400t just for Universal).
Working with private companies who already have large investments in the food sector and are capable of financing flash dryer investments significantly increases HQCF production and a market for a large number of beneficiaries. Even though these companies are currently food processors, they are interested in targeting the premium market for HQCF in the packaging industry in Malawi and neighbouring countries as mentioned above.
C:AVA Vision of success in Malawi
By 2013, C:AVA aims to ensure 4,697 farmers, processors and employees of 3 companies directly benefit from contributing fresh cassava roots, wet cassava cake and labor to the newly established HQCF value chain with an average benefit of $110/annum.