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Cassava growth boosted by climate change

Cassavas are currently one of the world's fastest-growing crops, holding up better to the rising temperatures caused by climate change, as pointed out by experts.

In a seminar organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) at its headquarters in Rome, specialist Clair Hershey stressed that, since the 80s, the global production of this tuber has increased by 52% due, among other reasons, to the doubling of its production in Africa.

Hershey, of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, based in Colombia, said that this potato-like tuber is adapting better to higher temperatures compared to other crops, such as beans or corn, which are "more sensitive to climate changes."

The expert said that the global trade of cassava concentrates mainly in Asia, especially in Thailand, which exports it mostly to China.

Another issue is how to deal with pests and diseases, which are also to worsen with global warming and "are increasingly appearing in Asia, affecting cassava fields," affirmed Hershey.

She stressed that while this tuber can generate higher revenues despite climate change, it still needs to expand into new markets. Further research in the crop's genetic diversity, long-term control of soil erosion and pesticide treatments is also necessary.

More than 200 million people still rely on cassavas as their main crop, with 65% of the production intended for human consumption and the remaining 35% for fuels and the industry, according to figures presented at the event.

This latter figure is expected to increase in the future, especially in Latin America and Asia, which are, along with Africa, the world's largest producers.

According to data collected by FAO, Nigeria, Brazil, Thailand and Indonesia account for half of the world's production. By continents, the largest producers are Africa (50%), Asia (30%) and America (16%).

With the rising price of cereals in recent years, cassavas have become an alternative to wheat and corn. They are rich in proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamin C, making them very nutritious.


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