The main objective of this study is to evaluate the economic potential and opportunities for introducing Genetically Modified (GM) cassava that is Cassava Mosaic Virus (CMV) resistant and has improved starch properties in South Africa. The level of cassava production in South Africa is limited and thus a study on a new technology for this crop may seem strange. However, with innovations like the CMV resistance trait or amylose free cassava starch, cassava production in South Africa can possibly become more viable and relatively more profitable than competing crops such as maize and potatoes. Various ex ante economic methods and approaches to assessing economic impacts exist in the subject literature: the partial budget approach, cost benefit analysis, consumer and producer or economic surplus approach and the computable general equilibrium (CGE) or simulation model. For the purpose of this study and due to available data, a simple gross margin analysis was applied to analyse the economic profitability of genetically modified cassava in South Africa in comparison to maize and potato. Due to data limitations, this study relies on a synthesis between secondary information from various studies in other African countries and interviews with experts. The information collected was used to assess the potential for genetically modified cassava in South Africa. Secondary information and interviews with experts were used to provide more insights and information relating to the possible opportunities, constraints, performance of the genetically modified events, and production practices for cassava and other competing crops like maize and potato in the country. The gross margin analysis results show that cassava production is not profitable at farm level for both dryland and irrigation scenarios. However, processing cassava into starch results in higher returns from the higher starch output and quality compared to potato and maize. The starch from cassava has many industrial applications. The scenario analysis for GM cassava and infected cassava at 10%, 20%, 30% and 40% expected yield loss showed that the CMV resistant and amylose free GM cassava provides additional benefits due to its better quality and higher starch yields compared to infected varieties. The higher quality starch yields a higher profit making it even more profitable to produce cassava for starch. The results of interviews with subject experts show that cassava production and utilisation has lagged behind other crops in South Africa and the crop is sparingly and informally traded. An analysis of market constraints showed that there is a strong consumer taste preference for maize and other cereals dominating the starch market. Other factors that have contributed to the lagging behind of cassava in South Africa and other African countries are the post colonial government policies that favoured maize over cassava. Cassava has a number of important traits that present a competitive advantage for cassava as a commercial crop for farmers compared to other crops such as maize and potato. For example, cassava can be grown under difficult environmental conditions and has a wide range of applications ranging from food products to industrial starches. Cassava can be grown as a monoculture crop, unlike maize and potato which require rotation. In addition, the special characteristics of cassava starch present an important alternative to maize, wheat, rice and potato. Cassava flour and starch have unique properties which make them ideal for many applications in the food, textile and paper industries where flour and starch from other crops hold a quasi monopoly. For example, among starch producing plants, cassava has been considered as the highest yield producer (25 to 40 percent higher than potato, rice and maize) and as the most efficient (the highest) converter of solar energy to carbohydrate per unit area. However, despite these advantages, cassava has remained a neglected crop in South African agricultural research and development activities compared to cereals. However, the increasing demand for starch based applications in the food industry and industrial sector and the fact that the industry is searching for a cheaper substitute for cereals present an impressive market growth potential for cassava starch. For example, industries including the paper industry, food industry and textile industry are the main buyers of cassava starch in South Africa. The results from interview discussions show that there are some concerns and questions related to the introduction of GM cassava in South Africa. One of the main concerns was that empirical studies in South Africa have shown that the occurrence of cassava mosaic virus in the country is very low; it has an approximate 2 percent incidence rate. As a result, large scale producers have been able to control CMV through good management practices, natural selection and chemical control. Also, bureaucracy and lack of transparency in the South African genetically modified organism (GMO) regulatory system, especially regarding socio-economic issues consumer perception on GM cassava, may result in an extended delay before contained field trials are conducted in the country. It has also become clear that the two proposed GM events are still relatively far from being commercialisable. Furthermore, the current availability of mutant varieties of conventional cassava varieties that can produce better quality starch with a very low amylose content provide an important alternative to GM cassava. The utilisation of the former tends to be less time consuming and less expensive compared to GM cassava. It is difficult to perform a socio-economic assessment before confined laboratory tests or field trials have been conducted. Further development of the potential product would supply crucial information that is needed for an ex ante socio-economic study. It is clear that this study was conducted far too early as GM technologies are not yet remotely close to being ready for commercialisation. Many basic studies still need to be conducted, including field trials. The South African GMO Act and regulations do not clearly stipulate when a socio-economic study should be conducted, but it is clear that the worth of a study conducted before any confined field trials had been performed would be questionable. Copyright
Dissertation (MScAgric)--University of Pretoria, 2010.