Where is Cassava Grown?

May 2, 2014

The world consumes a lot of tapioca syrup and starch. But where does it all come from?

As reported earlier this week, tapioca syrup is an often totally interchangeable alternative to corn syrup. Tapioca syrup and starch are both popularly used in global health food markets, but these ingredients are made from cassava root, which often isn't local.

So, where is this tuberous root grown?

Thanks to FAOSTAT, interested manufacturers can track the particular countries that lead the world in cassava production. The top ten are all in Africa and Asia-a warm, non-frosting environment is best for cassava-and the world's leading producer is Nigeria at 54 million tons.

Even though Africa accounts for more than half of the leading producers on this bar graph (click to enlarge), African countries might not be exporting cassava in the form of syrup or starch-or exporting much cassava at all. A great majority of their cassava is presumably consumed locally as food.

“I think the Southeast Asian market is more developed," says James Morano, PhD, of Suzanne's Specialties (New Brunswick, NJ). "On the evolutionary scale of starch syrups, they’re much farther along in Southeast Asia than they are in other parts of the world.”

Greater production of cassava could mean better prices, but it won't necessarily indicate a mature infrastructure for processing tapioca syrups and starches.