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Cassava is exported in three forms: as a human food, as a starch, and as an animal feed ingredient. Similar to the domestic markets, price and quality competition exists in the starch and animal feed export markets. There is less competition in the human food export market.

The cassava export markets are primarily Europe and North America. There are a number of important but smaller markets in Asia, such as Japan, Korea and China. The export market for cassava chips and pellets and cassava starch is highly price competitive. There are other barriers to entry owing to the large scale of some of the market, quality requirements, variability in price, and the established contacts between European and North American importers and the major exporters such as Thailand and Indonesia (Figure 13). This is not to say that other cassava producing countries cannot enter these markets, but they need to realise that the export market is not for all cassava producing countries.

Figure 13
Exports of cassava

Only 10 countries managed to export more than 10 000 tonnes of cassava (root equivalence) in 1995 (Table 44). As can be seen from the above figure, Thailand and Indonesia account for 95 percent of the exports. Thailand is the leading exporter of cassava starch and cassava pellets for animal feed. Indonesia's exports are primarily in the area of cassava pellets and chips for animal feed. Costa Rica, normally the third largest exporter, exports fresh cassava for human food[12]. The major export of the remaining countries is in the form of starch.

Table 44
Major cassava exporters in 1995 (tonnes root equivalence)


Volume of exports


Volume of exports


11 137 150

84 000


2 181 036


82 991


149 008


39 810

Costa Rica

118 226


39 681

Viet Nam

87 143


26 948

The importer side of the picture is slightly more diverse. In 1995, 22 countries imported more than 10 000 tonnes of cassava (root equivalent) (Table 45). The data in this table are a little misleading. For example, the 1995 Indonesia import of cassava is an aberration. Also Australia, Bangladesh, Argentina and Mozambique have not been traditional importers of cassava. Finally Japan and the United States have imported substantially more in 1995 than what is indicated in Table 45. Nevertheless, the table is instructive. It illustrates that the demand side of cassava markets are more variable than the supply side. Depending on a country's risk preference, they may see the export market as an opportunity or a risk.

Table 45
Major cassava importers in 1995 (tonnes root equivalence)


Volume of imports


Volume of imports


3 476 058


229 375


2 340 135


181 495


2 059 143

Honk Kong Special
Administrative Region,

152 893


1 233 320


48 050


1 014 516


42 835


872 169


28 083


616 864


23 900

Korea Rep.

488 623


17 016


379 079


13 895


362 417


11 662


234 274


10 800

The following chapters contain a review of some of the important markets for internationally traded cassava.


Global Perspectives

The consumption of cassava as a staple in non-cassava producing countries is generally restricted to immigrants who learned to eat cassava in their country of origin. For others, they tend to know cassava as a novelty food or a dessert, not as a staple. During the course of this investigation, three promising cassava food market opportunities were found in North America and Europe. These export opportunities may also exist in other regions of the world (such as Japan, SE Asia, etc.) but they were not examined in this report. The markets are fresh, dried and frozen cassava; cassava flour as a replacement for gluten based flours; and cassava based snack foods. The issues surrounding these markets are discussed below.

Cassava as a human food in North America

5.1 Fresh Cassava

Fresh cassava is generally treated as an exotic tropical vegetable in North American grocery outlets. In 1997 the U.S. imported 35 000 metric tonnes of fresh, dried, chilled and frozen cassava. Canada imported 1,859 metric tonnes of fresh, dried, chilled or frozen cassava. The annual growth rate of fresh cassava imports into the United States since 1989 has been 24% and for Canada 30% (Figure 14).

The average U.S. import unit price for fresh cassava root in 1997 was $13.70 per 50 pounds (or $604 per metric tonne). The average U.S. import unit price for frozen cassava root in 1997 was $15.27 per 50 pounds (or $673 per metric tonne). The terminal prices at various locations across the United States as of June 30 1998 ranged between $16 in Miami and New York City to $22 in Los Angeles per 50-pound carton (Table 46). The retail price at a local grocery outlet in rural Southern Ontario was US$0.61 per pound or US$1.35 per kg.

Figure 14
Level of cassava (fresh, dried, chilled and frozen) imports into North America

Table 46
Price of waxed yuca/cassava from Costa Rica


Prices on June 30, 1998

Miami FL


New York NY


Baltimore MD




Boston MA


St. Louis MO


Los Angeles CA


Source: USDA-AMS Market News Service

Factors underlying cassava imports growth opportunities in North America

The increase in fresh cassava (yuca) imports is driven by three factors. One factor the development of new techniques that extend the shelf life of tubers, and allow them to be exported. A second factor is the increasing ethnic populations in both the United States and Canada who are familiar with cassava. A third factor is a growing interest in ethnic foods by mainstream Americans and Canadians. This increased demand has occurred both in grocery outlets and restaurants.

Fresh roots for export are typically coated with paraffin to prevent deterioration. Tubers are dipped in a fungicidal wax for one minute, drained, dried and stored at room temperature. The process reduces loss in weight and can prolong shelf life of tuber up to one to two months (Balagopalan et al. 1988). Once shipments reach the grocery outlet, the tubers are said to last about a week. Alternative packaging approaches include shipping cassava in sealed plastic bags filled with CO2, or chilled and frozen cassava tubers. As illustrated in Figure 15 much of the recent growth has been in the frozen import category. Some of this growth may be artificial, however because the U.S. only recently separated imported chilled and frozen cassava from imported dried and fresh cassava in 1995. It is not known how much frozen cassava, if any, was imported before 1995.

Figure 15
Potential cassava consumption owing to increasing Hispanic population

A second reason for the increased demand for fresh cassava is the large immigrant populations in Canada and the U.S. In the U.S. the Hispanic population is assumed to be a major driving force in market expansion, while in Canada the driving force is assumed to be the Caribbean population. In 1996 the Hispanic population in the United States was estimated at 29 million persons representing 11% of the U.S. population with a median age of 34. By the year 2050 the Hispanic population is anticipated to be 96 million persons, representing 25% of the U.S. population with a medium age of 38 (U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census 1997). If one assumes the consumption rate of fresh cassava by the Hispanic population[13] remains constant at approximately two pounds (or.9 kg) per year per person, then imports of fresh cassava could more than triple by the year 2050, as illustrated in Figure 15.

A third factor contributing to the increase in cassava imports is the changing face of grocery supermarkets in North America. Traditional supermarkets are facing stiff price competition from large warehouse buyers clubs such as Price Costco. To compete, supermarkets are introducing bulk sized products, centralized buying, just in-time ordering and diversifying their outlets to meet the specific needs of regional and ethnic markets. In the greater Los Angeles area, for example, Yucaipa's Food 4 Less caters specifically to Latino customers and is the second largest supermarket operator in the area. To attract ethnic clientele, supermarkets are using products like cassava as a marketing tool often times as a loss leader. The same thing is happening in traditional supermarkets in Canada. The stores don't expect to sell very much cassava but they recognise the need to have it available (personal communication).

Finally, there is reason to believe that the urban population of North America is gaining an interest in ethnic foods. A survey of 635 respondents found that 45% agreed that they would be interested in experimenting with ethnic foods and would like to try items they have never eaten before. Fifty percent of adults wished more ethnic dishes were available at moderately priced restaurants and 40 percent wished they were available at fast food places, a less traditional setting for ethnic items (National Restaurant Association 1989). Thus fresh cassava may find a growing market in Caribbean and Latin American restaurants in the future.

Costa Rica has effectively cornered the fresh cassava market into the U.S. supplying over 97% of U.S. imports[14]. The Philippines ranks a distant second at 1% of the market. Suppliers to the Canadian market are more varied. In 1997 Costa Rican suppliers represented 41% of the total Canadian import value of fresh, frozen or dried cassava, Jamaica 33%, Philippines 10%, the United States 9% and Vietnam 3% (Government of Canada).

Constraints to the expansion of the North American cassava market

The potential growth for fresh, dried, frozen and chilled cassava in North America is good for numerous reasons; a growing ethnic population familiar to cassava, a growing trend in the overall consumption patterns towards ethnic foods and better technologies for prolonged shelf life. A major constraint to the expansion of the North American market for fresh, dried, chilled and frozen cassava is the lack of product recognition by the non-immigrant population. While a higher percentage of the population has seen cassava than any time in the past, they have little idea what the product is or how to prepare it. Cassava has not been promoted. To simulate new demand, market promotion is essential. One cannot expect to use cassava as a loss leader indefinitely. At some point in time cassava must be profitable to sell.

The perishable nature of the crop is another bottleneck to market expansion. Obviously, if a dehydrated or frozen french-fry product were developed, then storability is not a problem. While cassava (yuca) in North America does not have close substitutes or complements, it may lose consumers, as immigrate populations become integrated into North American culture. New immigrants are likely to replace cassava with potatoes, as it is similar in preparation and cooking style and adds similar properties and tastes to meals.

Patterns of consumption: Cassava and potato

The similarity between potato and cassava consumption makes one think that it might be possible to model future cassava consumption after the potato experience because both are labour intensive to prepare and are subject to spoiling. Over time fresh (unprocessed) consumption of potatoes in North American has been replaced with processed and frozen potato consumption, as illustrated in Figure 16 (Hillstrom - webpage).

Figure 16
US potato consumption pattern (by product)

Thus, it could be suggested that further processing of cassava such as dehydration might be one value added activity that could be done by exporters. Over the past 35 years, consumption of dehydrated potatoes has grown at a rate of tree percent per year. Although consumption of dehydrated potatoes accounts for only two percent of total per capita consumption, it is an area that might be promising for cassava.

An alternative would be the development of cassava french-fries (see Brazilian case study). As can be seen from Figure 16 this has been the greatest source of growth for potatoes, with an annual growth rate of eight percent.

The demand for fresh, dried, chilled and frozen cassava has increased owing to improved packaging and processing and increased demand by consumers. While the trend is positive, it would appear there is a need to further develop an acceptable line of products to expand the consumer base. From the supply side Costa Rica has taken the lead in developing new processes, products and markets. On the demand side supermarkets have been pro-active in targeting and developing ethnic markets, but in general have not done much to promote cassava consumption itself. There is a need to promote fresh, dried, chilled and frozen cassava if this market is to maintain a long-term growth trend.

5.2. Cassava Flour

In addition to the fresh, dried, chilled and frozen consumption, cassava can be consumed as a food ingredient. This section contains an examination of the potential for growth in cassava flour.

Cassava flour can be used in making breads, biscuits, salad dressings, custard powder, ice cream powder, flakes, vermicelli, etc. Cassava flour imports into North America is the smallest of the four categories of cassava import. In 1997 the US imported 1,592 metric tonnes of cassava flour, a dry milled product produced from peeled roots. In Canada 337 metric tonnes of cassava flour were imported (Figure 17). As illustrated, supplies into the U.S. are quite variable from year to year, peaking in 1991 and 1996. Supplies into Canada are relatively stable.

Figure 17
North American imports of cassava flour

In Canada cassava flour is imported from Taiwan, Japan, the U.S., India, Honk Kong Special Administrative Region, China and Thailand. In the U.S. cassava flour is imported primarily from China, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia (Government of Canada).

Cassava flour plays a very small part in the North American food industry. Demand could rise, however,. if the potential and need for non-glutinous flours is recognized. Cassava flour, like coin, rice and potato flours, is non-glutinous making it different from the flour of wheat rye, triticale, barley and oats. It is the gluten in these flours that help bread and other baked goods bind and not crumble. This feature has made gluten widely used in the manufacturing of many processed and packaged foods.

Coeliac disease and the growth opportunities for non-glutinous flours

One reason for the demand for non-glutinous flours to increase is a growing awareness of coeliac disease in North America. Coeliac disease is a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by gluten. This results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. The common symptoms are anaemia, chronic diarrhoea-weight loss, fatigue, cramps and bloating, and irritability. A definitive diagnosis can only be made by a small bowel biopsy.

Coeliac disease, as yet, has no known cure but can be effectively treated and controlled by strict adherence to a gluten-free diet for life. Acceptable flour substitutes include rice, potato, soybean, corn, arrowroot and tapioca. Rice flour is the most commonly used flour by this population.

Although statistics are not readily available, it is estimated that 1 in 5 000 persons in the United States (Gluten Intolerance Fact Sheet) and 1 in 2 000 in Canada (Canadian Coeliac Association) are affected by coeliac disease (Table 47). These rates however may reveal only the tip of the iceberg as up to 25% of adults report some adverse reactions from eating specific foods (Food Allergy Center). Until recently coeliac disease was recognised mainly in children. The rate at which adults are being diagnosed is increasing, particularly those in the 40-50 year-old age bracket, owing to greater awareness and improved diagnostic skills.

Table 47
Estimated population affected by coeliac disease, 1996


Cases of coeliac

Affected persons



11 846


1:1 200

3 623


1:2 000

14 840

United States

1:5 000

53 888


1:9 000



1:200 000


Source: Cooley 1997

To date large food manufactures have not developed or marketed gluten free products, because the market is considered to be too small - representing only 0.02% of the US population and 0.05% of the Canadian population. However from the point of view of a cassava exporter, the market could be about 6 000 tonnes of flour or 24 000 tonnes of roots.

Lacking a commitment by the large food manufacturers, people afflicted with coeliac disease must make their own bakery and gluten-free products, or buy them from speciality shops at a premium price. These individuals also have to avoid many preprepared and restaurant foods because wheat flour is often included, but not mentioned in the labelling[15].

The need for gluten-free foods is obvious, but to date there has been limited development in this area. A major North American importer of cassava products says that he has tried to develop this market because of its great potential for the use of cassava flour and starch. He unfortunately reports that the major food manufactures do not consider the market to be big enough. The Canadian Coeliac Association reports similar problems with a gluten-free breakfast cereal that was removed from the market because the manufacturers felt that the market was not big enough (personal communication).

While one must be sanguine about the market opportunities for cassava flour in North America, the following experiences from England suggest that this market could develop.

The following illustrates one example of an English company that is aware of this problem and is trying to serve people with coeliac disease.

Gluten Free Foods Ltd. As people become more aware of Celiac Disease they will demand healthier eating alternatives. Today an estimated 100 000 coeliacs living in the United Kingdom are keenly seeking gluten free products within the marketplace. Gluten Free Foods Ltd. was established in 1970 to meet the needs of this demand. The first manufacturer to expand the gluten and wheat free market to include "luxury "items Richard Ward, the Managing Director, introduced the world to its first Gluten Free Bakery with products such as biscuits and cookies, pasta, pretzels and chocolate covered wafer bars (Glutten Free Foods Ltd.).

There are researchers who are also developing new gluten-free products as illustrated below.

AntiAllergic Cereal Based Noodles: A research team led by Dr. Toshiyuki Arita of the Tokyo Metropolitan Food Technology Centre has developed a technique to produce anti-allergenic noodles from millet. Arita's development is noteworthy because millet species generally lack glutinosity, a feature regarded as essential for noodle manufacture. The team overcame this obstacle by adding sodium alginate (one percent content) and tapioca starch to the millet as binding agents, then immersed the formed noodles in a calcium lactate solution. This led to the formation of calcium alginate in the noodles, which further augmented the binding effect. The noodles are aimed at people who suffer from allergies caused by wheat flour (Arita).

If this market is to be realized it is going to take a concerted effort by those affected by the disease and manufacturers and distributors of bakery products.

5.3. Cassava Snacks

A second opportunity for processed cassava in North America is the so-called "salty snack" food industry. Snack foods are a fast growing industry. Dollar sales of such snacks foods grew from $10.6 billion in 1987 to $13.8 billion in 1992, an increase of 30%. Per capita consumption jumped from 17.49 pounds in 1987 to 20.55 pounds in 1992 (Hillstrom, webpage).

Growth opportunities

Two major changes that have occurred in the industry have been consumers' concern with salt and fat intake and consumers' willingness to experiment. Low-salt and low-oil potato and tortilla chips have been developed and successfully marketed, as have multigrain snacks. Pretzels and nuts have also seen steady growth owing to consumer perceptions that they have more nutritive value than potato chips. The introduction of more flavour varieties such as salsa, spicy hot, jalapeno, and chilli illustrates the willingness by consumers to experiment.

One area where cassava might grow is in the production of third generation (or extruded) snacks. Third generation snacks or pellets are made from several different raw materials. A typical recipe for snack pellets might include 55% modified cornstarch, 28.0% modified wheat starch, 16% tapioca starch, and 1% emulsifier. Following extrusion cooking, the pellets are dried to reach their final texture. After frying in hot oil or puffing in a hot air steam, they are ready to eat. This last step can be carried out by the snack processor or left for the packers prior to packaging. The pellets can also be retailed as a consumer item to be fried in the home or restaurants.

The marketing potential of third generation snacks is in their stability during storage and high bulk density of packaged non-expanded pellet. Furthermore, the versatility and unique final product normally yield a higher gross profit than standard direct expanded snacks.

Certain desirable formulations, particularly those containing high levels of tapioca and potato starch have characteristics such as low gelatinization temperatures, development of high viscosities during gelatinization and high water absorption. Another caracteristic of these tapioca and potato starch formulations is the specific binding properties that historically have made them extremely difficult to process. In third generation snacks, it is common to formulate based upon these starches because of their inherent functional properties. Tuber starches, especially tapioca, are basic to many third generation formulations in Asia. Tapioca starch is very desirable in these snacks due to the following factors: little or no lipid content. longer amylose chains, low protein content, low gelatinization temperatures, medium size starch granules, excellent binding properties, bland flavour, and white colour.


A bottleneck however is that although extruded snacks are no higher in fat content than potato chips and corn chips, they suffer from a consumer perception that they are highly processed and therefore not as healthful as related snack foods. Throughout the last decade, consumers have shown a preference for more natural, less processed foods - including snack foods. Although consumers want convenience, there is a trend toward the use of whole foods rather than refined foods.

A further bottleneck is that those that attempt to compete against the large snack food manufactures typically must find a niche product that can be sold through alternative markets first, such as health food stores or ethnic markets. If the product meets with success there, the smaller marketer can charge a higher price. If the product or method of processing is really successful, the smaller marketer is typically bought-out by the larger manufacturers for wider distribution.

The snack food industry in North America is dominated by Frito-Lay (a subsidiary of Pepsi Co.), which claims 72% of the overall salty snack food market in 1997. Although the industry has elements of a monopoly, Americans' appetite for speciality and relatively "healthy" snacks has kept the industry competitive. Over 400 new products were introduced in both 1991 and 1992, including several varieties of multigrain chips, flavoured ready-to-eat popcorn and diet cheese puffs. Potato chips however, led the way in salty snack consumption in 1992, with 32% of retail sales volume. Tortilla chips were second with 19% of the dollar sales. Cassava-based snack foods that do exist in North America are typically imported for ethnic markets and consumed by people who are already familiar with the product.

The good news is that the snack food market is expected to continue its rather rapid growth. It is not clear however whether cassava will play a significant part in this growth. On the positive side, if cassava snacks were to be perceived as low-fat, low-salt alternatives to current snacks, its potential could be great. If however, consumers continue to believe that puffed snacks are unhealthy, then the potential for cassava snacks is poor.

For both the cassava snack food and cassava flour markets, there is probably limited potential for exporters of cassava to expand these markets. Cassava exporters can promote the virtues of their product, but will probably have to rely on the major food manufacturers, food technologists and consumer preferences to determine if there are growing market opportunities for processed cassava as a human food.

Cassava as a human food in Europe

5.4. Fresh Cassava

Europeans have imported fresh cassava roots for many years from a variety of African and Latin American countries (Henry, Westby, and Collinson 1998). Import volumes were highly erratic, until Costa Rican exporters entered the market and gradually assumed the dominant role. Currently, Costa Rica exports 4 000-5 000 metric tonnes per year of fresh cassava to European destinations. Unlike competing exporters, Costa Rican exporters (mostly of Cuban origin) work with strict quality standards and product certification. This coupled together with efficient distribution and price management has assured them this niche market. Currently, in supermarkets and speciality food outlets of major cities in France, Belgium, Holland, UK, Germany, one can find high quality cassava roots on sale, year round. According to the importers, the main consumers are resident ethnic groups (or descendants) from Africa and Latin America (and to a much lesser extent Asia).

European fresh cassava imports, during the last five year period have been growing by five to eight percent annually. However, the current estimated total volume of 5 000 metric tonnes per year is relatively small compared to US imports of 35 000 metric tonnes per year. The latter imports are increasing by a similar annual growth rate. While Costa Rican exporters express optimism about future market growth, French and British exotic food distributors seem more conservative in their expectations. On the other hand, there is a lot of interest from other Latin countries (Colombia, Nicaragua, Cuba) to attempt to compete with Costa Rican exporters.

Growth opportunities

Future fresh cassava growth potential is determined by, first, continued consumption by ethnic groups, currently forming the principal consumer group. If we assume that their numbers grow at the average population growth rate, there would be an annual one to two percent consumption increase, if relative prices remain the same. However, second and third generation ethnic descendants, in time, may loose their taste for, or at least decrease their intake of fresh cassava.

Second, the ethnic groups may increase their cassava purchases if the relative cassava root price would decrease. Current cassava prices in Europe are very high compared to other "non-exotic" carbohydrate sources. Along the same lines, fresh cassava purchases may increase slightly as ethnic groups' incomes increase.

Third, future improved distribution can make fresh cassava more widely available, which will strengthen overall demand. However, the main determinant of growth is the potential shift of consumer groups. If "native" Western Europeans learn to appreciate more exotic foods, including cassava, future demand would significantly expand and become more sustainable. However, this is a very slow process and will take a major publicity investment. Nonetheless, there seems to be an emerging trend already. This could be helped by a growing awareness about the social aspects of purchasing (eating) products "produced by poor farmers in least developed countries (LDC's).

Finally, ethnic consumers in Europe are mostly Africans, whose traditional cassava consumption methods are not fresh cassava root, but rather processed cassava pastes or flours[16]. On the contrary, in the US, the main consumer group consists of Latinos, who traditionally prepare food dishes using fresh cassava roots. This would then suggest that per capita cassava consumption levels by ethnic groups in the US are significantly higher than in Europe.

Another area of growth for cassava as a food in Europe is the further processed convenience food, frozen cassava fingers (a la French fries). Although, one source mentioned that this is already being marketed in Germany and the UK, little hard evidence exists to quantify this. However, it ought to be discussed as a potential new product, since this product is recently experiencing an increasing (but still modest) success in Brazil[17] and Colombia. Furthermore, it seems that it is now also appearing in Miami supermarkets (imported from Central America), and it has been mentioned that it is being exported from Brazil to Japan. The most common product is a precooked deep-frozen cassava finger in 1-lb. packages, to be found in the supermarket, next to the deep-frozen (potato) French fries. In Brazil, deep-frozen cassava is priced 10-15% below prices of the latter product. The same type product, not pre-cooked is also being sold, but is supposedly to be of lesser quality and convenience.

Of the aforementioned cassava processed products, it seems of most interest to discuss the potential for frozen cassava fries to enter European consumption patterns. The principal reason would be its characteristics as a relatively cheap (vis-à-vis potato fries), tasty, exotic and convenient carbohydrate to be consumed during regular meals or as a snack. As such, it could well compete with other upmarket frozen ready-to-eat carbohydrate products, enjoying similar demand and income elasticities and subsequent positive future growth rates.


From the demand and marketing side, opportunities exist in the reduction of marketing margins, expansion of product sales points and penetration of new consumer groups (advertising).

From the supply side, opportunities exist in reducing fresh root and processing costs and improving product quality. The latter mainly refers to the way the roots are currently being preserved with a paraffin layer. This method may not be appetizing for the final consumer. Alternative preserving options (plastic bag method) may be called for.

There is also the bottleneck of the semi-monopolistic export position of Costa Rica. West African countries have a potential edge in supplying Europe, because they can provide African varieties and products and could possibly have lower shipping costs. Nevertheless, they have a long way to go to rival the Costa Rican efficient and effective marketing methods.

Given the previous discussion on fresh cassava growth potential, the key players for the realisation of future growth are exporters and European market agents. Improved production, processing and marketing strategies could reduce root prices and margins, improving quality and expanding demand through increased awareness by new consumer groups.

While historically, fresh cassava root imports into Europe have been increasing, total volumes are still rather small compared to the US. Because of ethnic differences and related food habits, cassava consuming ethnic groups in Europe have lower per capita fresh cassava consumption levels than do those in the US. Historical import growth rates are not sustainable for the long-term future, unless fresh cassava becomes more acceptable to "native" Western Europeans. Improved quality (preservation and packaging), reduced marketing margins, increased distribution and stronger competition from other major exporters may further boost future demand. The major stakeholders for this development are principally market agents. A potential role for R&D interventions seems to be relatively minor.

The major constraint with deep-frozen pre-cooked cassava fries in Europe is the consumer's non-recognition of cassava. Consumers have never heard of cassava, other than being used in animal feeds. This point was brought home when asking several major European frozen food manufacturers and distributors, who answered: "cassava, what is that...? Deep-frozen, next to (potato) French fries..." There is no product familiarity or recognition among "native" Western Europeans. To penetrate the market with such a product would require a considerable marketing strategy and investment. This issue of non-recognition applies to all other possible cassava-based snack, fast or convenience food products.

5.5. Cassava Flour

Besides fresh cassava roots, one can find imported (mostly from Africa) traditional cassava flours and pastes (gari, attieke, fufu, etc.), much prized by African ethnic groups. Even if one could find statistics regarding imported volumes and values, it wouldn't say much, because according to French and Belgium exotic food wholesalers, a significant volume of these products are also illegally coming into Europe and disappear unofficially into the food market. The main reasons for this unofficial market circuit is that some of these products are just not available in shops, and the quality of some of these products are not up to strict European sanitary import regulations. Although volumes and growth rates are unknown, suffice it to say that these products, most probably, do not present potential as a major development path.

5.6. Cassava Snacks

Another cassava-based product that has made a more significant development already in some Western European countries, is the type of cassava starch cracker, called "krupuk" in Indonesia, where it has its origins. During the last five years, an increasing variety of krupuk-type snacks have been finding their places in the supermarkets, beside well-known potato and corn chips, etc. Although many types exist, they all have some basic ingredients in common: cassava starch and some flavouring. The latter goes from shrimp, fish, peanut, coco, to chilli flavours. In general they are priced in the higher quality snack range. Given that they are basically a processed cassava starch, they formally fall into the starch-for-food-industry category. Suffice it to say that although increasingly popular, total starch volumes for these products are negligible compared to other major starch using industries. Another potential cassava-based snack food that could be brought to Europe is fried cassava chips (crisps).

Theoretically, more cassava based processed food products do exist (and may have a potential in European markets), but most are not directly identifiable as cassava products. Hence, these will be generically included in the cassava starch-for-food-use category, dealt with in the starch section of this report.

Given the previous discussion about current market constraints, the principal stakeholders that face these challenges will be the food industry itself. However, national and/or international R&D institutes could play a role as catalysers and transfer agents of technologies and information about the potential of cassava in these food product markets.

Imported traditional (African) processed cassava products seem to be a product line for a very specific and limited consumer audience. In the absence of non-ethnic European uptake, these small imported volumes should not significantly expand in the future. Improved product quality could expand the product portfolio and subsequently improve demand to some extent. Cassava-based snack and convenience food products have a basic potential, but this can only be realised through a very significant marketing, and to a lesser extent, product development investment by a leading food product manufacturer and distributor. The major problem with these "new" products is consumer non-recognition. R&D interventions are limited to a role as transfer agents of cassava product technologies and information.

Future directions

The import market for cassava as an imported food in North America and Europe is not very large and constitutes a number of products. In a majority of these markets, the driving force appears to be the ethnic community - a community that may be loosing its taste for traditional dietary items.

Thus for these markets to grow, there is a need to expand the consumer base. While there are indications that the wider North American and European populations are interested in new "exotic" foods, there is a need on the part of producers, processors and distributors to package, price and promote cassava foods. Promotion of cassava foods has benefited from some technological changes, such as paraffin coating of roots, frozen cassava chips and third generation snack food technology.

Perhaps the most exciting market is represented by cassava snack and convenience foods. These are rapidly growing market segments in both Europe and North America that have substantial R&D and promotional support. Cassava is attractive in these markets because it has some desirable properties, and may be considered to be a novelty product in other areas. Unfortunately the growth of these markets will not be realised without the support of the major food manufacturers such as Frito-Lay, McCain's, etc.

Niche market opportunities exist, such as the use of cassava flour for bakery products for individuals with coeliac disease. By definition niche markets tend to be small, and hence require support of the various stakeholders if the markets are to be developed.

A hopeful by-product of North America and Europe research and development in the area of food technology could be the identification of market opportunities that are more appropriate for cassava producing countries. Cassava producing countries will hopefully be able to adopt these technologies for domestic use, and the establishment of industries that spur rural development.

[12] Indian exports of tapioca were unusually large in 1995.
[13] In 1995 the percentage of "Hispanic" immigrates from Mexico was 34%, from the Caribbean 37°C (mainly from Dominican Republic), from Central America 12% (mainly from El Salvador) and from South America 17% (mainly from Colombia).
[14] In value terms
[15] The Canadian Coeliac Association identifies over 2,300 food items that were found to be gluten-frce. These products range from baby foods, to deli meats, to dressings to snack foods. The point being that there are many more foods that are not gluten-free. (Canadian Celiac Association 1998).
[16] The imports of processed cassava for human consumption, will be discussed in a later section.
[17] A further more in-depth discussion can be found as a case study in Brazil, in Chapter 1.

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