While root crop flour is being proposed as the alternative to wheat flour, it may be costlier in the short term.
Gem's Healthy Foods, one flour producer at the National Marketing Development Corporation's (Namdevco) root crop demonstration at Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain on Saturday, sells cassava flour at $35 for one pound, and five pounds adds up to $175. Root crop flour is rarely found in regular supermarkets, advanced orders are required from producers like at Gem's Healthy Foods.
However, Namdevco is working on promoting mass production for consumption which will make root crop flour easy to access. CEO Nirmala Debysingh said its focus is to market such flour and facilitate the processing industry.
"We have been working with our small-to-medium enterprises and farmers and making those necessary linkages. We have also been building the capacity of the key players in this development by providing the training needed."
This comes as National Flour Mills (NFM) and Nutrimix announced flour price increases of up to 33 per cent. NFM on Wednesday implemented the 33 per cent increase on wholesale flour, and recommended a 28 per cent increase on retail sales, while Nutrimix announced its price increases of between ten-33 per cent takes effect on Monday.
At the demonstration, three chefs of the National Schools Dietary Services Ltd showed shoppers how to make doubles as well as pancakes and ice cream from sweet potato flour. But while making both, the chefs used more wheat flour than the crop flour which prompted some onlookers to leave.
Agriculture Minister Kazim Hosein, Minister of Communications Symon de Nobriga and minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Avinash Singh were among those present.
De Nobriga, speaking to the media, said: "As much as we are hearing the conversation around root crop flour not being cost effective in the way wheat flour is, it is becoming more of a low cost option."
The ministers and the remaining members of audience were given samples made by the chefs to which they claimed it had no noticeable change in taste. The ministers also did a tour throughout the market where they purchased fresh produce from farmers while learning more about the farmers origin and their drive in agriculture.
Hosein said he was glad to see so many families out patronising the vendors and accepting local fruits and vegetables more. He also encouraged people to plant more of their food at home.
"I want everyone to move their backyard gardens to their front yards because we're dealing with food security now. I want to add that just as how national security holds great importance, food security should too."
He said he wants people to go back to the basics of having a vegetable garden and sharing what is harvested with their neighbours. Hosein also appealed to those with no yards and said they can still join in like he does.
"I can say from experience, I have a tomato plant in my living room so if you don't have a back yard or a front yard, take it to your living room."
He stressed on how necessary these small acts can boost food security in the country once people also follow his suggested "plant it, eat it and repeat it" method.