SOMANYA, GHANA, Ghana’s tapioca production can reach 30 million tonnes a year compared with the current 18 million tonnes through the adoption of best farming practices by farmers, says Professor Joe Manu Agyei of the Crop Research Institute (CRI).

Planting high yielding, disease-resistant and pest-free varieties of the crop could result in a substantial increase in production, he told journalists on the sidelines of a one-day workshop organized by the CRI under the West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) for Root and Tuber Crops Programme here Tuesday.

The workshop, which brought together farmers, extension officers and officials of the Food and Agriculture Ministry from five districts in Ghana’s Eastern Region (Province), was funded by the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) to increase productivity and sustainability of root and tuber crops in six African countries through co-ordinated management of virus diseases threats.

Prof Agyei encouraged farmers to adopt improved farming technologies and to use quality planting materials to increase crop yields and returns. He added that under the planting for food and jobs programme, the Chinese government had offered to import 4.5 million tonnes of starch annually from Ghana. In order to take advantage of this offer, there is a need to expand tapioca cultivation in the country.

Dr. Allen Oppong, a research scientist and leader of the West Africa Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) programme in Ghana, said the goal was to help farmers understand the virus threat to root and tuber crops in West Africa. He urged farmers to be on the lookout for the cassava (tapioca) brown streak virus disease, which he described as dangerous.

The virus was yet to strike the sub-region but he said it was important to create awareness and to assist farmers to know and report to the appropriate authorities for prompt response any sign of attack.