February 21, 2012
India Offers 20 Billion Loan For Cassava Development
The government of the Republic of India has announced it is tendering its Cameroonian counterpart a loan worth some 20 billion FCFA to help develop cassava production in the country.
The disclosure trickled Wednesday, February 22 following a closed-doors conclave convening India’s Honorary Consul to Cameroon, Ravi Khuma and External Relations Minister Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo. “I am very happy to announce that it is all good news for India-Cameroon relationship. This letter I have just passed on to the minister gives a 42-million-dollar line of credit from India with very soft terms for the development cassava in Cameroon,” the diplomat explained.
He however remained vague on the timeframe for the repayment of the money by the Cameroon government. India has been ramping up development grants to Cameroon in recent years, the most recent being the donation of tractors to assist the country mechanize its agriculture.
Unfortunately, the tractors provoked a huge scandal when the civil society Citizens Association for the Defense of Collective Interests, ACIDIC sounded the alarm bell, alleging that the equipment had been derailed by officials in the Ministry of Agriculture. It demanded a probe, whose conclusion is yet to be rendered public.
Earlier this year, another scandal involving Indian assistance to Cameroon erupted when the media reported that tractors from the Asian giant being assembled at a plant in Ebolowa in the country’s south were rotting in the bushes following the desertion of the project. The government hastily dispatched officials to get the plant operational anew.
Cassava remains one of Cameroon’s most copious agricultural products. In 2010, the National Roots and Tubers Development Program, PNDRT, reported output had reached 2.3 million tons thanks to the availability of improved planting materials from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
“From 10 tons per hectare, farmers are now harvesting between 25 and 30 tons per hectare,” Thomas Ngue Bissa, the program coordinator told reporters. The crop is grown mainly for its starchy roots and leaves as vegetable. Most varieties grown in are vulnerable to pest and disease attacks which frequently cause significant losses in harvests. However, the IITA improved varieties have boosted resistance to pests and diseases, and also have added advantages like short crop cycle, and high yield, and in some cases, resistance to drought.
According to Ngue Bissa, the next challenge is fitting growing hubs with processing equipment and creating markets to avoid glut and price drops. The heralded Indian loan should go long ways towards addressing these problems.
Article source Cameroon Post Online, posted on The Cameroon News under Cameroon Business News