PAPUA New Guinea’s SP Brewery will look to start using locally-grown cassava in its brewing processes after signing a deal with the PNG Department of Agriculture and Livestock.

SP Brewery managing director Stan Joyce signed the memorandum of understanding with department secretary Vele Pat Ila’ava.

“The Brewery has looked into how to source local starch, so we’ve engaged Dr Keith Galgal to work on this exciting project, identifying different cassava species in PNG that are fit for this purpose,” Mr Joyce said.

Dr Galgal told PNG Resources the cassava could replace up to 30 per cent of the imported barley malt currently used in SP Breweries’ production processes.

“We expect the trial to run for the next 2 years to end of 2017 because it involves growing, processing and test brewing,” he said.

SP Brewing would develop a central cassava nursery at the Erap station in Morobe Province as a trial in the first phase of the study, with Mr Joyce saying he felt cassava crops were suitable for the PNG environment.

The nursery at Erap station will become the source of cassava cuttings for distribution to small holder farmers in Markham, Huon Gulf and Nawaeb districts in Morobe.

Dr Galgal said he expected all cassava used would be grown by between 3,000 and 5,000 smallholder farmers producing between 90,000 tonnes and 150,000 tonnes of fresh cassava roots annually.

Mr Joyce said the company would look forward to this taking place.

“We’d be engaging thousands of farmers throughout PNG in small scale projects, whereby they grow cassava and they sell that tuber plant to the starch factory and the Brewery would buy the starch required for beer from the starch factory,” he said.

Dr Ila’ava thanked SP Brewery for their interest into agriculture and said this signing was a clear reflection of the continued public private partnership the Government has with the private sector.

“On behalf of my Department and Minister Tommy Tomscoll, we thank SP Brewery for joining us on this journey, we look forward to the partnership and I’m sure it’s going to be a very fruitful and very exciting one for all of us,” said Dr Ila’ava.

Multinational brewing giant SABMiller launched the first commercial-scale cassava-based beer in Mozambique in 2011.

Sold under the “Impala” brand, the beer is brewed using 70% cassava and 30% barley.

In an announcement, SABMiller said one of the obstacles it had confronted with cassava was its rapid deterioration immediately after harvesting.

To deal with this, the group partnered with Dutch Agricultural Development and Trading company to develop a mobile processing unit, allowing the cassava to be processed in situ.