Cassava production set to drop

Cassava production is forecast to drop 7.74 per cent to 27.75 million tonnes next year, due to farmers turning more to fuel crops that bring higher prices, especially sugar cane.

Cassava was planted on 8.29 million rai of land last year, but that is expected to decrease 6.15 per cent to 7.78 million rai.

Of total cassava production, only 2.5 million tonnes will be used to produce ethanol, while the rest will go towards the manufacture of tapioca chips for export and as a pet-food ingredient for the local market.

Many factors have hurt production, including insects, lower rainfall, reduced yield per rai and a flow of cassava from neighbouring countries under the Asean Free Trade Area.

"The drop in production will halt the industry's growth, because there will not be enough raw material for the manufacture of tapioca flour," said Thai Tapioca Trade Association (TTTA) president Seree Denworalak.

As a result, the tapioca-products industry, including flour, starch and chips, will see flat export growth or only a slight drop next year. For instance, the association predicts this year's export of 2.14 million tonnes of tapioca flour will decline to 2 million tonnes next year. Domestic consumption of the product is forecast at 1 million tonnes next year, same as this year.

Seree said the yield per rai for cassava is also forecast to drop 1.68 per cent to 3.56 tonne per rai. The farm price for cassava is quoted at Bt1.60 to Bt1.80 per kilogram.

"The government's guaranteed price is suitable for supporting industry growth and farmers," he said, adding that at that price, exporters could maintain their export competitiveness.

Moreover, cassava growers spend Bt1.28 to produce a kilogram, down from Bt1.46 in the previous harvest season. The drop in the production cost has been in line with a lower oil price.

The TTTA has called for the government to control plant diseases and educate farmers about good strain selection.

Seree said the cassava price could reach Bt2 a kilogram late in the harvest season if the widespread problem of insects was not solved.

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