CDC Advised To Grow Cassava, Produce Biscuits

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By Francis Tim Mbom

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Essimi Menye, has advised the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, to, as a matter of necessity, diversify its products if it really intends to unknot itself out of the myriad of problems in which it is knotted.
Essimi Menye was speaking during a working session at the CDC Senior Staff Club at Bota, Limbe, on Monday, August 18, after the installation of the newly appointed Board Chairman of the Corporation, Justice Benjamen Mutanga Itoe. The 72-year-old Itoe was appointed on August 1 to replace Chief Henry Namata Elangwe, who died in March this year.

After committing the retired Judge to his new function, Essimi Menye, during a working session, listened to the GM of CDC, Frankline Ngoni Njie, and other top notches of the Corporation who presented a plethora of problems that have been threatening the agro-industrial complex on which some 21,000 Cameroonians depend for their livelihood.

The GM observed that the CDC was a big corporation but having too many over-aged plantations, has greatly compromised the corporation’s ability to have high yields from is farms and rendered the CDC very fragile in its drive to make enough money to overcome its financial worries. “The age of our plantations is the reason for our fragility. We currently have about 2,700 hectares of oil palm that are already above their economic life; 6,000 hectares of rubber that need being replaced and 2,000 of bananas that have aged above their economic life span,” the GM told the Minister.

“CDC must replant in order to get out of its fragile state,” the GM stated. The GM also observed that Government’s decision in 1994 whereby CDC was listed as one of the state corporations to be privatised, is now adversely affecting the corporation. He said the corporation, under this cloak of being “listed for privatisation”, cannot, any longer, venture out to secure either a medium or a long term loan.

Pauline Wellang, former Financial Director and presently Attaché to the GM, added that their major headache today was the recent fall in the world market prices for rubber and, more so, the fact that the CDC, from inception, depends on a world market where the prices for their products are practically being decided or dictated to them by their international buyers. She disclosed that the CDC used to make a total of FCFA 48 billion from the sales of rubber, but this year 2014, the word market prices have slumped and sliced their expected earnings to just FCFA 21 billion.

Besides, the banana market which brings in FCFA 25 billion was also suffering from its own problems. She remarked that, with one of their buyers, Del Monte, having gone, the prospects of having all they produce sold has become problematic. Meantime, the palm oil they produce is also being affected in that they produce at a high cost and are compelled to sell at less than the production cost.

In reply, the Minster advised that the only way out was to diversify their products and move from their traditional products whose prices are determined abroad to the production of finished products that can be sold locally and internationally. Minister Menye quickly proposed that, instead of just producing and packaging the bananas straight for the European markets, the CDC can go a little further. “You can even go further to produce banana flour which can be blended with, say, cassava flour to create a new product,” he said.

He stated that the banana fruit had sundry by-products such as banana flour, banana juice, and banana pulp, among others, which the CDC, instead of depending only on international buyers of the raw fruits, can diversify production to also turn the raw bananas to other products such as biscuits, chips, flour, which they can easily sell.

Bananas when harvested for sale have a shelve life span of 21 days and barely a 14-day limit from when it has to leave the farms to when it has to reach the buyer and still in the required standard and condition as determined by the buyers. But Wellang said the CDC has suffered loses or rejects of some of its fruits owing to this polemics of meeting required European or market standards. The Minster reiterated that the issue about prices being determined elsewhere and some of the products termed ‘reject’ can conveniently be dealt with if CDC diversifies.

He went on to advise that CDC can plant cassava which can be sold locally and mangoes which might soon have a big demand even in neighbouring markets in Nigeria and other African countries. Meantime, the new Board Chair pledged his readiness to work with the other Board members, the GM of CDC and with the collaboration of the Government to see how they can get CDC out of its current fix.

“I can say that the policies which the GM is pursuing will help CDC to rejuvenate. And in my capacity as the Board Chairman, I intend to activate the entire labour force of the CDC,” Itoe said, agreeing with the Minister that: “CDC cannot move into greater productivity if we do not diversify. It is not a question of Cameroonians working and others earning the money.”

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