Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Department for International Development


  Cassava is a root crop, native to South America that is now grown throughout the tropics as a food and industrial crop. It is tolerant of drought and low fertility. It produces large tubers (swollen roots) high in starch. The tubers are lifted, washed and processed to produce food or dried to give cassava chips or pellets. It is a cheap source of starch and starch products.

  In the early 1960s, the CAP insulated the internal prices of feed grains in Europe from world market prices through artificially set floor and ceiling prices. Cassava starch was treated differently in the external tariff structure, which made it highly competitive to animal feed makers and commercial starch producers.

  Since the 1940s the Thais had developed a highly efficient production, processing and marketing structure for cassava production. The area under production rose from 700,000 hectares in 1975-76 to about 1,680,000 ha in 1988-89, falling to about 1,100,000 ha in 1998-99. Most of the increased production was located in the fragile soils of north and north-east Thailand and often on sloping land prone to erosion. The expansion of area was at the expense of natural forest. It resulted in considerable soil erosion. Water from processing plants frequently contaminated waterways through high levels of organic matter and naturally occurring cyanides released during processing operations.

  Between the late 1960s and 1982 cassava imports to western Europe, from Thailand rose from 0.4m MT to over 7.8m MT.

  At this stage the EU sought to reduce the importation of cassava. Because of the political and legal difficulties it sought to do this through voluntary means. Thailand agreed because of links to other trade agreements (especially textiles) and promised development assistance to help diversify agriculture in the poor north-east. The 1997 quota (for a preferential tariff of 6 per cent) was set at 5.25m MT. The negative impact of this reduction has been reduced by growing demand for cassava chips from other countries, namely Japan, Korea and Taiwan. There is also a growing world market for the higher value cassava pellets and processed starch products.


  Agricultural and tariff policies set in Europe can have a significant impact on market opportunities and responses in developing countries.

  The Thais exploited the market for cheap starch for livestock feeds as it created jobs and income. The increased areas under cassava were at the expense of natural forest and caused soil erosion.

Department for International Development

February 2002

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