Cassava could be the carbohydrate of the 21st century, says UN

Cassava: currently seen as a

If insects are the protein source of the future, as some experts are predicting, then cassava is set to become the 21st century’s carbohydrate of choice, a United Nations report has suggested.

The hardy root - which is grown in tropical and subtropical climes and copes well with drought - will play an increasingly important role in feeding the world and could even replace grains such as wheat, which are becoming vulnerable to extreme weather patterns and are seeing high price volatility, experts at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization are predicting.

Cassava was primarily seen as a “poor people’s food” grown at very small, local levels at the moment, but new farming methods could increase yields substantially and turn cassava into a commercially traded, 21st-century crop, the FAO said in its ‘Save and Grow Cassava: a guide to sustainable production intensification’ report.

Use of cassava as food is limited in the developed world, but it could play an important role as an industrial food ingredient and as animal feed, it said: “Global cassava output has increased by 60% since 2000 and is set to accelerate further over the current decade as policymakers recognise its huge potential.”

When grown at commercial scale, cassava flour could ultimately replace imported flours, easing developing countries’ reliance on expensive grain imports and contributing to global food security, it added: “One reason driving increased demand for cassava is high cereal prices. This makes it an attractive alternative to wheat and maize, particularly as cassava can be processed into a high-quality flour.”

Cassava is already catching on with major food and drink brands. In March, SABMiller launched Eagle Lager in Ghana, made with locally grown cassava instead of barley.