Tapioca Cultivation In India & Profit

Not many people relish Tapioca for what it is. A staple food in some of the african countries, Tapioca is consumed widely in Kerala and not in any other states. Tamil Nadu the largest producer of Tapioca in the country, consumes less than a small percentage of whats produced. The parts of kerala where Tapioca is consumed normally have their demands met with the local production alone. 

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In 2014-15 , the price of Tapioca and Tapioca by-products crashed to half the price from the price of previous years. The price crash was attributed to excessive produce and lack of demand. Considering only 2 states in the entire country produce over 97% of tapioca, the price crash, if attributed to lack of demand should effectively mean only one thing. Its one of the few products which have poor demand and a product which really cannot demand a price. 

FACT : India is the 11th largest exporter of Cassava but when it comes to tapioca cultivation area, we stand 8th. 

Its important to understand why Tapioca farming is not profitable in india. Its not just Tapioca as a raw product but also the byproducts which are not able to demand premium price.

To begin with Lets take into consideration where its cultivated.

Tapioca cultivation in kerala

Tapioca is a staple food in parts of kerala. Kappa, as its called locally in Malayalam is part of the breakfast cuisine in parts of kerala and is consumed with fish curry! While some parts of kerala relish the dish, half of kerala do not consume kappa as often. Mashed Steamed Tapioca dishes are common in most parts of kerala and there are a range of recipes available which is quite good if you have the palate for it.

Most of these districts have their demands met from local farmers. Its rare to find any traders acquiring products from the nearby state, Tamil Nadu, even though Tamil Nadu produces the largest amount of Tapioca in the country (nearly 62%).  The local produce is sufficient for consumption in kerala.

Tapioca Cultivation is often done in small to medium scale in kerala. Very rarely do farmers take farming of tapioca in more than 1 acre. Tapioca are often intercropped with other plants including cowpea, groundnuts or blackgram. 

Reference : http://www.celkau.in/crops/Tuber%20Crops/tapioca.aspx

Tapioca Cultivation In Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu is the Largest producer of Tapioca in india. Most of the tapioca produced in Tamil Nadu are processed and converted to flour, sago/Sabudhana or Chips. The product is rarely consumed locally and most of the sago is distributed through out the country with some exported to other countries.

Over the years, Cultivation of sago, though continuous, is not profitable for farmers. The excess production has seen a drop in price and lack of demands in foreign countries and competition has reduced tapioca profits by 50%, with some farmers going in loss.

The few farmers who are still into Tapioca production rely on nearby factories that manufacture flour and sago for profit.

Tapioca cultivation in andhra pradesh

Andhra Pradesh is not a major producer of Tapioca. The tapioca produced in Andhra are just sufficient for the local market and are often in excess. Though a few starch mills do exist in Andhra Pradesh, they are not considered major players. 

Other states with smaller tapioca cultivation include Maharashtra & Karnataka 

Tapioca cultivation time

Tapioca is usually planted during April for Rainfed crops. Under irrigation, Tapioca does not have a season and can be planted any time during the year. Harvest is usually 9-11 months from the date of planting. Tapioca does not have a lot of nutrient requirements and the soil can be anywhere between loam to sandy loam soil. Clay soil is not suitable for Tapioca. The nutrient requirements for tapioca growth is minimal. Red soil is the most suitable for Tapioca cultivation

tapioca cultivation methods include creation of raised rows with enough space for walking. Weeding is recommended the first 2-3 months and the spacing is between 1 and 2 feets to 3 feet between plants. Plants are propagated from the stem of healthy tapioca plants discarding the tough portion of the stem near the root and the soft top portion. The stem is cut in 15 centimeter pieces and treated with carbendazim before planting.

Planting tapioca cuttings are easy and requires minimal work overall. Plough the land, create raised beds, ensure that there is no water logging. Irrigation for the first 2-3 months are required followed by the last month before harvest. 

Growing tapioca at home is common among most homes in kerala. Due to its ease of cultivation, almost every home will have a plant or two which is sufficient for personal consumption. Growing tapioca at home involves planting tapioca cuttings on a mound and providing nutrition and fertigation the first few weeks. The plant involves no care which makes it a wonderful crop to grow at home for organic produce.

Tapioca Production By Country

India stands 8th in the list of exporters of Tapioca. Considering that india does not consume as much tapioca, most of the tapioca cultivated is exported. While Countries like Thailand depend on tapioca Exports and a major chunk of the economy is dedicated towards Tapioca, India , even with the potential of cultivating large quantities of Tapioca takes no interest in the produce. 

The fact that Tapioca rates are not lucrative is one primary reason for the lack of interest among farmers. Also Tapioca was considered as a poor man’s food in the areas where tapioca was cultivated. When rice could not be acquired , Tapioca was considered an option and that’s the main reason why Tapioca is still considered a staple in Kerala.

The major countries which produce Tapioca include Brazil, Thailand, Nigeria, Congo , Angola, Mozambique and more. India Stands 10th in the production of cassava worldwide. Most of the african countries producing Cassava are also consumers of cassava themselves.

What Tapioca Products are Profitable.

Tapioca is rarely cooked and consumed in its natural form in India apart from kerala. But most people know about sago, the Tapioca pearls which are created from Tapioca starch.  Sago is widely consumed in almost all parts of India in some form or the other. Sago also called Sabudana is prepared as kheer or khichdi. Though widely consumed, its an occasional dish often considered a food for Fasting periods. 

Apart from sabudana The most common form where tapioca is consumed is in the form of chips. Tapioca Chips production is profitable and chips are commonly consumed in the south while most parts of the country find it a good snack occasionally. Tapioca chips production seconds the list of all tapioca by products from cassava after sago. 

Apart from tapioca Chips, Tapioca flour is also a product from cassava starch which has a good shelf life.