He said root and tubers crops such as sweet potato, cassava, potato, Andean roots, yam and aroids, provided great opportunities for long term poverty alleviation and food security much more than any other staple food produced in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions.
But the Deputy Minister noted that the efforts to commercialize these crops had been minimal and not quite effective on the continent.
Reading a speech on behalf of President John Dramani Mahama at the opening of the 12th Triennial Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops Africa Branch in Accra, the Deputy Minister explained that most of the crops were grown by poor farmers (women) on marginal lands, therefore, śnot vital for both food security and income generation.ť
This, he said, had resulted in the challenge of how to commercialize and improve the competitiveness of the root and tuber crop products.
The five-day meeting on the theme: śCompetitiveness of Roots Crops for Accelerating Africa™s Economy Growthť, is being attended by over 200 participants across the continent.
He called for the opening up of trades and markets within the African region and beyond, tapping into sustainable policies, developing business and investment opportunities as well as effective collaboration with other private sector development partners, crop scientists and industries in Latin America, Asia and Europe to learn from their experiences.
śThis will facilitate competitive root and tuber crop development in our African Continent as we also take advantage of the resilience root crops like cassava and develop research and development plans to bring these crops into the mainstream food markets of our countriesť.
Dr Nzola Meso Mahungu, President of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said the symposium was being held at a time when global attention to agriculture was trending up.
He said the meeting was to provide a window of opportunity for partners to compare notes and develop strategies that would unleash the potential of the root and tuber crops.
The meeting would discuss issues such as African roots crops trade and market scenarios, policies favorable to competitiveness of roots and tubers in Africa, business and investment scenarios as well as investors mobilization for sustainable root and tuber crops research and development.
Dr Abdulai Baba Salifu, Director“General of Ghana™s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, who presided, said roots and tubers contributed to food security and should be given the needed attention.
He noted that roots and tubers were widely consumed in Africa, providing incomes for farmers but the potential of these crops was yet to be fully exploited.
śCassava for instance is a source of livelihood for over 300 million people in Africa and with climate change the crop is becoming more importantť.
He reiterated the need for Africa to ensure that roots and tubers compete effectively on the international market.