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Tapioca flour and exports growth areas

The Thai tapioca industry will focus on flour exports and Asian markets as part of its growth strategy over the next five years, when the exports of tapioca products could reach 100 billion baht.

The Commerce Ministry projected that by 2016, domestic demand for cassava roots in ethanol production will surge to 13 million tonnes, while exports could top 22.5 million tonnes, totalling 35.5 million tonnes, up 42% from the current production levels.

Speaking at the World Tapioca Conference 2011, Yanyong Phuangrach, the ministry's permanent secretary, said Thailand should focus more on exporting tapioca flour to substitute for a reduction in the export of tapioca chips and pellets.

The proportion of flour exports is expected to rise to 65% from 51% now, with chips and pellets making up the rest.

Mr Yanyong said the country should build a good image and accept the standards of its tapioca flour and other products to create confidence among importers, buyers and local consumers.

Thai exporters should also expand in promising markets, especially in Asia countries such as China, India and Indonesia, to ensure flour quality and lower transport and insurance costs.

Sharing his view was Pramote Kongthong, president of the North Eastern Tapioca Trade Association, adding that tapioca flour has high potential to be used in food, energy and other industries.

He is confident Thailand's exports of tapioca products will exceed 100 billion baht over the next five years. Currently, there is more investment in tapioca flour factories to supply major customers in China and India.

Tapioca is a key economic crop for the country, creating jobs and income for more than 500,000 families, with plantation areas of about 6.5 million to 7 million rai.

Thailand harvests approximately 20-25 million tonnes of cassava roots each year, 75% of which are processed for export.

Last year, the country shipped 7.27 million tonnes of all types of tapioca products worth US$2.15 billion (68.3 billion baht).

Seree Denworalak, president of the Thai Tapioca Traders Association, said tapioca exports this year were projected at 73 billion baht, of which 44 billion baht would be tapioca flour.

However, the figures may change after a survey on cassava root production in September.

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