The objective of the cluster programme is to enhance competiveness of micro-small- and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) through sector cluster development. At the end of the programme COMESA hopes clusters will have been established, SMEs provided with the requisite skills, suitable finanacial loean product developed and a regional sector value chain supply and demand database created.
The pilot programme has being implemented in 10 COMESA cassava growing countries namely Burundi, Congo DR, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
As a result of an increase in the use of cassava on the international market, the role of efficient markets and a better coordinated cassava chain have become important to producers and processors who depend on cassava. Market opportunities for farmers and processors include cassava flour as a replacement for wheat flour, cassava starch as a raw material for food and non-food industries and cassava chips for domestic livestock feed sector and export.
For example the current substantial market for starch is 66 million tones which could be tapped by cassava producing countries in COMESA region.
On average COMESA member countries produce an average of 30 million tones of fresh storage cassava roots from 3.1 million hectares with average yields of 8 tons per hectare. Ironically, most COMESA countries imports cassava starch which is one of the by products of cassava used for the production of paper sacks, corrugated, textile, wood, glue, cartons and trays despite this relatively high cassava production.
The main source of imported starch in the COMESA region is South Africa, India and China .In the COMESA region, current starch intra-trade stands at 64 US$ million dollars while extra trade is 597 US$ million dollars.
The underutilization of cassava in the COMESA region is partly because of limited availability of constant supply of high quality cassava processed products such as animal feed, starch and cassava chips.