Organisation: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria (http://www.cgiar.org/iita/)
In the last 25 years, the world cassava production has been growing at over 2 percent per year. The crop has demonstrated its ability to provide food security to populations in the tropical world, particularly in Africa, that were faced with severe drought, civil unrest or economic breakdown. It has shown in Thailand that it can be a major foreign exchange earner and a building block for industrial development. In Latin America, particularly in Brazil, cassava has proven to be a reliable raw material for the food manufacturing industry and for animal feed production.
Recently, cassava production in Africa has been increasing at rates (4.2 percent) exceeding the population growth rate (see Table 6). In addition to playing its traditional role of providing food security and low cost food, cassava can be promoted as a modern food ingredient and as a modern input in the growing agro-industrial sector, thus raising farmers' income. The demand for animal feed (particularly poultry feed) is expected to increase in the next five years (FAO, 1997); production of starch and alcohol from cassava in Nigeria is only meeting 10 percent of the demand or less. Other African cassava producing countries are almost completely dependent on importation to meet their starch and alcohol needs.
To facilitate the adoption of cassava as viable raw material, the highly perishable cassava roots need to be transformed, as closer to the farm as possible, into stable products with a longer shelf life and lighter to transport than the fresh roots. Such product can be cassava chips or cassava flour. Its production technology is simple and inexpensive and can be adopted by farmers. In Nigeria, small-scale farmers have formed associations for processing cassava into flour that is sold to biscuit factories. Others are producing chips for the ethanol factory. In Ghana, there is a burgeoning cassava chips export market.
Due to policy changes in the European Community, cassava exports from Thailand to Europe have been declining, forcing Thailand to develop and expand its domestic utilisation of cassava. Food and non-food industries are steadily increasing their uptake of cassava (Titawatanakun, 1996). However, because of the large volume of cassava that is exported, domestic cassava prices in Thailand are determined by export prices. There is great pressure on Thai entrepreneurs to develop the most efficient cassava-based processes in order to remain in business.
In Africa, Asia and Latin America, the cassava post-harvest sector need to be relied upon to ensure that cassava continues to provide food, feed and industrial raw materials. Cassava research and development efforts should be expanded if cassava is to meet such expectation in the next millennium.