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Press Release 00/02

FAO URGES INCREASED RESEARCH ON FUNCTIONAL PROPERTIES OF STARCH TO HELP DEVELOPING COUNTRIES COMPETE IN WORLD MARKETS


Thiruvananthapuram (India)/Rome, 21 January 2000 -- The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has urged research institutes to look into the various properties of starch in an effort to help developing countries compete more effectively in world starch markets.

"Access to more information about starch properties will help people in developing countries sell their products and compete in world starch markets," said Morton Satin, Chief of FAO's Agro-Industries and Post-Harvest Management Service. He was addressing the "Third International Symposium on Tropical Root and Tuber Crops" being held in Thiruvananthapuram (India) from 19 to 22 January.

Urging the private sector to support the research, Mr Satin said that FAO expects to publish a detailed electron microscopy atlas of starch granules. The atlas would provide the industry with information that could lead to the development of new commercial uses for starches in both the food and non-food sectors. In future, the Organization will support further work on the physical, chemical and taste properties of starches. FAO began studying the functional properties of starch a year ago and is now working with research institutes in Italy and Thailand on the issue.

He pointed out that because they have long been categorized as subsistence crops, starch and many other crops suited for tropical agro-climatic conditions had unfortunately not benefited from the degree of value-added research required to ensure commercial competitiveness on an international scale. Starches are found in most crops including wheat, corn, rice, potatoes, cassavas and sago palm.

"In the case of starch-based crops, breaking out of the subsistence mode of thinking requires an understanding that it is not the crops themselves that are in demand, but rather the functional characteristics of their value-added products," said the FAO expert.

Currently, most of the research on value-addition to tropical starches is being carried out by commercial corporations in developed countries, not in the developing countries where the products are grown. "This pattern must change if there is to be any hope of building a significant presence in world starch markets of value addition from developing countries," Mr. Satin stressed.

The functional properties of starches needed by the food industry are almost unlimited and include: specific viscosity (hot and cold), thin boiling (faster canning heat transfer), viscosity resistance, freeze-thaw stability, gel texture, clarity, opacity, processing conditions tolerance, oil retention, suspension characteristics, adhesiveness, crystallinity, hygroscopicity, colour, anti-caking, cold-water swelling and film-forming properties.

Food uses include baking, cereals and snacks, soups and sauces, frozen foods, natural flavours, beverage emulsifiers, powdered non-dairy creamers, confections and dairy products.

Non-food uses for starches include adhesives, explosives, paper industry, construction industry, metals, textiles, cosmetic and pharmaceuticals and mining.

*****

For further information, call FAO Media Relations Officer John Riddle,
tel. (39) 06 57 05 32 59; email: john.riddle@fao.org or write to Mr Morton Satin,
email: morton.satin@fao.org


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