Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Sustainable production of Cassava / Tapioca in Sub Saharan Africa, if supported by local institutions and stable commercial partners, has the potential to favour industrial development in rural areas.

The Plant
Cassava is a perennial woody shrub, up to 5 m in height, which is cultivated mainly for its enlarged starch-rich roots, although the young shoots and leaves of the plant are also edible. Originally from Amazonia, Cassava is one of the most important staple food in the tropics region (except at the highest altitudes). At global level, production has increased yearly by an estimated 100 million tonnes. The success of this crop depends to a number of factors:
        Wide range of adaptation for rainfall (500-8,000 mm per year).
        Adaptability to low-fertility soils.
       Resistance to deseases with with virtually no input of fertilizers,                fungicides or insecticides
      High productivity:  it produces more calories per unit of land than any   cereal crop.

Plant varieties fall into 2 main groups of bitter and sweet speciesplants. The roots of the sweet variety are usually boiled and then eaten. The roots of the bitter variety can be either soaked, pounded and fermented to make a paste (such as ‘fufu’ in West Africa), or given an additional roasting to produce ‘gari’. They can also be made into flour and starch, or dried and pelletized as animal feed. 
The cassava plant contains two toxic substances, linamarin and lotaustralin. Sweet varieties of cassava produce little quantity of these substances, whereas bitter varieties may produce more than 1,000 mg per kg.
If roots of bitter varieties are not duly processed and the diet lacks protein and iodine (as occurs during famines and wars), cyanide poisoning can cause fatalities. Despite that, some farmers prefer to cultivate the bitter varieties, possibly because the cyanide helps to protect the plant from potential pests, and possibly because the texture of certain food products made from bitter varieties is preferred to that of sweet cassavas. Cassava, which was introduced to Africa from South America in the 16th century, is the most productive source of carbohydrates and produces more calories per unit of land than any cereal crop.
Through the 2000s areas cultivated with cassava has expanded considerably.  Although the nutrient content of the roots consists almost entirely of starch, the leaves are high in vitamins, minerals and protein and, processed as meal or eaten as a fresh vegetable (‘saka saka’), provide a useful source of nutrition in many parts of Africa, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Congo basin generally, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Tanzania and Uganda. The crop is very popular also in South East Asia. Thailand claims to have largest market share of exported Cassava products with approximately 88 percent of the entire market. However, the export trend of Thailand has declined as a result of the reduced import demand by half of the previous use by of the EU whose past import had been more than 50 percent of the world import. Other importing nations such as the People's Republic of China (PRC), Japan and Indonesia formerly did not consume much of the products but they, PRC in particular, increased their demand after 1999. These caused a major upward shift in the world export. It is notable that the PRC increased its demand for cassava products to compensate the needs for animal feeds in its livestock industry.

The Thai cassava exports include pellets, chips, flour and sago. As the major export item, pellets had 80-90% share of the total export and EU had been importing from Thailand 60-70% of its total cassava imports. The export reduction impact upon Thailand since 1993 was due to the launch of the Common Agricultural Policy by EU which pulls down their feedgrain prices in a major effort to provide incentive to more use of the domestic grains in place of the usual use of cassava pellets. At the same time, Thailand exercises voluntary restraint of limiting the annual pellet export to 5.5 million tons on the average under the agreement that EU provides assistance for cassava replacement cropping in the bilateral attempt to reduce the cassava planting.
The cassava flour is the second export item following the pellets. Its share ranges from 8-30 percent of the total export. The flour export value continues to show a rising trend of 10 percent with the share of 18 percent in 1992 which increased to 62 percent in 2000. The foreign demand for Thai cassava flour has been expanding and its main importers have been Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. However, competition is stiff with substitutable potato flour and corn flour from sources in Europe and America. Only if the price of the Thai cassava flour is comparatively not quite high, then its consumption potentials seem to become greater. In addition, quality of the flour is another main variable that should be brought into account.
As Thailand's major markets for the cassava products are limiting and subsequently in seeking new market access, it has launched emerging market program with certain policy of granting special export quotas outside the EU market. However, the result is not very fruitful since feeding practices using cassava product as one of the ingredients are not yet widespread and the product has several substitutes.(excerpt from FAO document). Therefore, African states who would like to promote this sector will need to establish parnerships with other countries to ensure viable and stable exportation routes.

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