Cassava is a perennial woody shrub with an edible root. Cassava, which is also called manioc, mandioca, or yucca, grows in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Cassava has been known since the 1500s and originates in Latin America. The cassava's starchy roots are a major source of dietary energy for more than 500 million people. Cassava is the highest producer of carbohydrates among staple crops, and it ranks fourth in food crops in developing countries. The leaves of the cassava plant are also edible and are relatively rich in protein and vitamins A and B.
Cassava is drought-tolerant and needs less soil preparation and weeding than other crops. Because cassava can be stored in the ground for up to 3 years, it also serves as a reserve food when other crops fail. The cassava is propagated by cuttings of the woody stem, thereby resulting in a low multiplication rate compared to crops propagated by true seeds.
One problem with cassava is the poisonous cyanides, which need to be destroyed before consumption. The cyanide content differs with each variety of cassava, but higher cyanide is usually correlated to high yields. The cyanide content can be destroyed through heat and various processing methods such as grating, sun drying, and fermenting.
Cassava is the primary source of tapioca. Cassava is also eaten raw or boiled, and is processed into livestock feed, starch and glucose, flour, and pharmaceuticals. One species of cassava has been successfully grown for its rubber.
Prices - The average price of tapioca (hard pellets, FOB Rotterdam) rose by +15.9% (over the 2005 price of $144) in the first four months of 2007 to a 12-year high of $167 per metric ton. The 2007 price was more than double the record low of $82 in 2001.
Supply - World production of cassava in 2006 (latest data available) rose by +7.1% to a record high of 226.337 million metric tons. The world's largest producers of cassava in 2006 were Nigeria (with 20% of world production), Brazil (12%), Thailand (10%), and Indonesia (9.0%).
Trade - World exports of tapioca in 2006 (latest available) rose +46.4% to a 13-year high of 5.680 million metric tons. Thailand accounted for 77% of world exports in 2006, followed by Vietnam with 20%, and Indonesia with 2%. The world's two main importers of tapioca in 2006 were China with 89% of world imports, Republic of Korea with 5%, and the European Union with 5%.