FAO/GIEWS - Food Outlook, November 1997

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Cassava production slightly higher in 1997

World cassava production in 1997 is forecast to grow by 1 percent to 164 million tons, mainly reflecting increases in Africa and Asia. Output in Latin America and the Caribbean is anticipated to remain virtually unchanged from last year. Production in Africa, the major producing region, is expected to reach 83 million tons, primarily as a result of favourable climatic conditions and, in some cases, government policies directed to expand domestic food production in an effort to limit food imports. Crop damage caused by pests and diseases is also forecast to be reduced owing to the introduction of pest-resistant varieties and the successful establishment of natural enemies of the cassava green mite under the biological control programme co-ordinated by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Marginal increases in production are estimated for Angola, Congo Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda. By contrast, poor crops are reported for Chad and Rwanda following, respectively, dry conditions and a widespread infestation of cassava mosaic virus that reduced plantings and yields. Civil strife in the Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone that disrupted farming activities, also contributed to the reduction in output. Little change in output is anticipated for other countries in the region.

In Asia, cassava output in 1997 is forecast at 48.5 million tons, slightly above last year. Among the major producing countries of the region, output in Thailand is forecast at 18.1 million tons, or 4 percent above 1996, while that in Indonesia, at 17.2 million tons, would be 1 percent higher mainly reflecting favourable climatic conditions. By contrast, in Vietnam, output is expected to be marginally lower than in the previous year as traditional cassava plantings have been reduced in favour of more remunerative crops such as rice and maize. However, new cassava growing areas (former waste lands) in the south are being brought under intensive cultivation using new higher yielding varieties with a high starch content, reflecting the strong interest of the starch-industries. No significant changes in output are anticipated for other countries in the region.

1995  1996  1997 
(. . . . . . million tons . . . . . .) 
WORLD  165.3  162.0  164.1
Africa  84.7  82.1  83.0
Congo Dem. Rep.  18.9  16.8  16.8
Ghana  6.6  7.1  7.1
Madagascar  2.4  2.4  2.4
Mozambique  4.2  4.7  5.3
Nigeria  31.4  31.4  31.4
Tanzania  6.0  4.3  4.4
Uganda  2.2  2.2  2.3
Asia  48.2  47.7  48.5
China  3.5  3.5  3.5
India  6.0  4.7  4.7
Indonesia  15.4  17.0  17.2
Philippines  1.9  1.9  1.9
Thailand  18.2  17.4  18.1
Viet Nam  2.2  2.2  2.1
Latin America and Caribbean  32.2  32.1  32.4
Brazil  25.3  24.9  25.4
Colombia  1.8  2.0  1.8
Paraguay  2.7  2.6  2.6
1/ In fresh roots.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the 1997 cassava output is forecast at 32.4 million tons, virtually unchanged from last year. In Brazil, the world’s second largest producer and processor, output in 1997 is anticipated to reach 25.4 million tons, or 2 percent above 1996, reflecting a slight increase in area. In Paraguay, output is expected to be close to the 1996 level reflecting increased competition from other crops, delays in the application of new technologies and limited support from the Government. Modest increases are forecast for Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Peru. However, production is expected to fall in a number of countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, mainly reflecting reduced area under cultivation and drought in some countries.

Demand on the rise

In Africa, consumption of fresh cassava and products (gari, attiéké, foufou etc.) is likely to increase in 1997, partly as result of rising domestic prices of cereals, reflecting high import prices and the disruption of marketing systems due to civil strife in some countries. In Tanza nia, for instance, much of the food deficit in cereals is estimated to be covered by non-cereal food crops including cassava and other roots and tubers. The higher demand for cereal substitutes also pushed up their domestic prices for these products. Cassava prices, for example, are currently estimated to be twice their level a year ago. In Sierra Leone, as a result of the recent political upheaval, consumption of cassava and other roots and tubers has increased markedly.

In Asia, particularly in China, Vietnam, and Thailand, usage of cassava in feed, alcohol and starch production is expected to expand in 1997. In China and Vietnam, on-farm chipping and drying for animal feed use is estimated to be particularly strong and to employ 40-60 percent of total supply. In Thailand, the largest cassava pellet producer and exporter, the share of cassava roots converted into starch has increased sharply in view of strong demand for starch and the government policy to promote starch production, part of which comes from the cassava pellet industry. Out of 18.1 million tons of cassava roots expected to be produced this year, about 10 million tons would be converted to chips and pellets and 8 million tons would be used to produce cassava starch, half of which is for domestic consumption and half for export.

In most countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, the crop is evolving from a traditional staple to a market oriented raw material for the manufacture of food products, livestock feed and industrial products. Cassava chips and drying industries are growing in many countries such as Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador. For instance, in the north eastern region of Brazil, consumption of farina de mandioca has increased because of the substitution of cassava flour as a cheaper and partial substitute for higher priced wheat flour in bakery products and in fermentation industries. Similarly, the usage of sour starch is growing in line with its increasing applications in snack foods and bakery industries.

In the developed countries, particularly in the EC, cassava utilisation in 1997 for animal feed is forecast to remain close to previous year’s level, as the demand for feed ingredients resulting from an earlier expected expansion in livestock has been tempered by the occurrence of swine fever disease that lowered pig production in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain following the slaughter programmes in the first part of the year.

Modest increase in cassava trade in 1997

World trade in cassava dry products in 1997 is currently forecast at 6.0 million tons (15 million tons in fresh root equivalent), or 3.4 percent above the revised estimate for 1996. The increase over last year mainly reflects larger shipments to non-EC countries, which are currently forecast at 2.5 million tons, or 9 percent above last year. Much larger purchases in the form of chips, pellets and flour are estimated for China, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Israel. Imports by the EC are estimated to remain close to 1996 levels.

1995  1996  1997 
(. . . . . . million tons . . . . . .) 
World Exports  5.2  5.8  6.0
Thailand  3.9  4.6  4.8
Indonesia  0.5  0.4  0.4
China 2 0.4  0.4  0.4
Others  0.4  0.4  0.4
World Imports  5.2  5.8  6.0
EC 3 3.3  3.5  3.5
China 2 0.5  0.3  0.3
Japan  0.3  0.3  0.4
Korea. Rep. of  0.2  0.6  0.6
Others  0.9  1.1  1.2
1/ In product weight of chips and pellets. including starch and flour.
2/ Including Taiwan Province.
3/ Excluding trade between EC members.

Thailand and Indonesia continued to be the main suppliers to the world market with market shares of 80 percent and 10 percent respectively. Total shipments of cassava dry products from Thailand in 1997 are currently forecast at 4.8 million tons, or 4 percent above last year, with exports of chips and pellets alone amounting to 3.8 million tons. However, total export volume would be less than Thailand’s 5.25 million ton annual quota to the EC. Because of this, there was no need in 1997 to apply the stock-check system, under which the Thai government granted licences for exports of tapioca chips and pellets to the EC taking into account stock holding and past performance of the individual exporters. This change reduced costs associated with holding stocks and encouraged competition among exporters of tapioca chips, pellets and flours.

Between January and August of this year, a total of 2.6 million tons of chips and pellets has been shipped from Thailand, of which 2.2 million tons went to the Community, mainly to the Netherlands (partly for trans-shipment), Portugal, Spain, Germany and Belgium. The latter two countries had suspended all purchases since 1994, but bought nearly 50 000 tons of chips and pellets in the first eight months of 1997. Another 400 000 tons were exported to non-EC countries including China, Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey and the Province of Taiwan.

Despite good crop prospects, foreign sales by Indonesia are not expected to be higher than in 1996 due to strong domestic demand; in fact, out of the 866 000 tons quota to the EC, only 97 500 tons had been shipped in the first nine months of 1997; China is also unlikely to reach its quota of some 367 000 tons to the EC, while Vietnam is expected to ship around 80 percent of its 30 000 tons quota. Other exporters in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are anticipated to ship some 400 000 tons in total.

Cassava pellets prices reached their lowest level

In the first nine months of 1997, the EC import price for cassava pellets, the major product traded internationally, continued the slide that began in September 1996, averaging U.S.$ 110 per ton, or 29 percent lower than the corresponding period in 1996. This was the lowest level for the last ten years. Cassava prices were depressed because of the relatively weak import demand in the EC for tapioca chips and pellets compared to the previous year, caused mainly by the swine fever outbreak, lower grain prices and stronger protein meal prices, particularly for soymeal, which resulted in increased usage of domestically produced feed grains. Despite the increase in soybean meal prices, however, cassava/soybean mixtures continued to remain competitive in relation to barley in Spain (see price table) because of much lower cassava prices. On the supply side, the price decline also reflected ample production of poor quality roots, larger carryover stocks, a decline in subsidies and the removal of the stock-check system in Thailand. In this country, domestic prices of cassava roots in the first quarter of 1997 fell to U.S.$ 37 per ton, or 30 percent below the level in the same period a year earlier.

Cassava pellets 
Soybean meal 
Cassava soybean 
meal mixture 3/ 
Barley 4/
( . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . U.S.$/ ton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .) 
1990  167  208  175  225
1991  178  197  186  222
1992  183  204  187  235
1993  137  208  151  197
1994  144  192  154  182
1995  177  197  181  209
1996  152  268  175  194
1997 5 110  279  144  165
SOURCE: FAO, Oil World and Agra Europe.
1/ F.o.b. Rotterdam (barge or rail) including 6% levy. 2/ Argentina (45/46 % proteins) c.i.f. Rotterdam. 3/ Consisting of 80% of cassava pellets and 20% of soybean meal. 4/ Selling price of barley in Spain. 5/ January-September average.  

Production and trade outlook uncertain for 1998

Preliminary indications for global cassava production in 1998 point to the possibility of more limited supplies of crops to be harvested in the southern hemisphere where the possible negative effects of El Niño could occur towards the end of this year and the beginning of the next. Production shortfalls, should they materialize, in Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean could lead to upward pressures on prices next year. The volume of trade in 1998 will depend also on various other factors, including price developments for feedgrains and soybean meal in the EC and the availability of cassava supplies in major exporting countries. Export supplies could be particularly affected by possible revisions to Thailand’s export policy, which is currently under consideration in respect to the allocation of the quota to the EC, and the likely introduction of export subsidies for shipments to non-EC countries.

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