Tapioca industry of Thailand

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The tapioca industry of Thailand plays an important role in the agricultural economy of Thailand. Tapioca (Thai: มันสำปะหลัง; rtgsman sampalang), besides being used as a food, the "native starch" it provides is used as a thickening agent and a stabilizer in many products. Native starch is a powder obtained from plants containing starch.[1] Native starch is extracted from the root of the tapioca plant, which has the ability to grow in dry weather and low-nutrient soils where other crops do not grow well. Tapioca roots can be stored in the ground for up to 24 months, and some species for up to 36 months, thus harvest may be extended until market conditions are favourable or native starch production capacity is available.


Tapioca originated in South America, where it was cultivated for 3,000–7,000 years. The Portuguese and the Spanish took tapioca from Mexico to the Philippines in the 17th century. The Dutch introduced it to Indonesia in the 18th century. It is unclear when tapioca was first introduced to Thailand, but one guess is that it was imported from what is known now as Malaysia in 1786.[2]

Cassava was first commercially planted in the south of Thailand, where it was planted between rows of natural rubber trees. Much of it is planted in Songkhla Province. Factories were established there to produce tapioca starch and tapioca pearls for export to Singapore and Malaysia. Over time, the area of planted cassava gradually decreased due to the encroachment of rubber trees. Cultivation then shifted to the east, to Chonburi and Rayong. As market demand increased, its cultivation was adopted by other provinces, especially in Isan.[3]


Two types of tapioca are grown in Thailand. Tapioca grown in Thailand is mostly of the bitter type.[2]

  1. Sweet: It has a low level of cyanic acid. Its taste is not bitter and it can be consumed by humans and animals.
  2. Bitter: It is poisonous, as it contains a high level of cyanic acid. It is not suitable for direct human consumption or for direct feeding to animals. It must be processed into flour, pellets, alcohol, or another derivative.


Tapioca is grown in 48 of Thailand's 76 provinces.[3] The total area of tapioca plantations in Thailand during crop year 2015-2016 was about 8.8 million rai (1 rai = 1,600 m2), allowing the production of about 33 million tons of native starch.[4] Fifty percent of tapioca plantations in Thailand is grown in the northeast region.[5] The five provinces with the largest tapioca plantations are Nakhon Ratchasima, Kamphaeng Phet, Chaiyaphum, Sa Kaeo, and Chachoengsao.[6]

The tapioca agricultural industry in Thailand has three types of production as follows:

According to the Information and Communication Technology Bureau, Department of Industrial Works, there were 93 native starch factories as of 2007. Northeastern Thailand has the highest number of native starch factories (46 percent) followed by the east region (31 percent), central region (15 percent) and north region (eight percent) respectively. Native starch factories are typically in the same areas as tapioca plantations.


Nigeria is the world's leading producer of tapioca, but Thailand is the world's largest exporter of tapioca products. Thailand accounts for about 60 percent of worldwide exports[7] with an export value of some 40,000 million baht per year. Important markets include Japan, Taiwan, China and Indonesia. Tapioca starch from Thailand is also in demand by countries in Central America and South America.

The export price of tapioca products has dropped markedly from its highs in 2013. For example, in October 2016 the price of a ton of super high-grade Thai tapioca starch was US$315, down from US$483 in April 2013.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Native and Modified Starches". Agana Group. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "What is tapioca". The Thai Tapioca Development Institute. Retrieved 21 November 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Tapioca Background". Thai Tapioca Starch Association (TTSA). Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  4. ^ "Tapioca Production". Thai Tapioca Starch Association (TTSA). Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  5. ^ Wangkiat, Paritta (19 February 2017). "Ericulture reeling them in". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  6. ^ Office of Agricultural Economics, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, 2007
  7. ^ Mydans, Seth (2010-07-18). "Wasps to Fight Thai Cassava Plague". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Tapioca Starch (Super High-Grade) Export Price" (PDF). Thai Tapioca Development Institute (TTDI). Retrieved 21 November 2016. 

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