Cassava products for food and chemical industries in China (1960-1990)

Cassava, traditionally grown in China for food security, has experienced a significant transformation over the past two decades. This evolution, fueled by growing demand from both small and large-scale industries, has propelled cassava from a seasonal, small-scale crop to a key player in the economy and agroindustry of southern China. Despite this progress, there is a pressing need for modernization in local economies, particularly in rural areas, to fully capitalize on these advancements.

Evolution of Cassava Processing:

The historical perspective reveals a remarkable journey in cassava processing:


  • Small-scale processing in rural areas, yielding low-quality starch.
  • Seasonal operation due to climatic constraints.


  • Technological improvements with the introduction of marble or glass troughs and horizontal centrifuges.
  • Production capacity increased, with over 270 starch factories in Guangxi.


  • Cassava’s role shifted from food security to a raw material for animal feed and industry.
  • Unprecedented expansion in scale and technology, driven by increased land availability, improved crop yields, and economic development.


  • Emergence of large-scale starch factories with diverse technologies.
  • Introduction of innovative processing techniques to extend cost-effective starch production periods.

Cassava Products and Secondary Processing:

Since the 1980s, the Chinese government has shown a keen interest in developing cassava-derived products through secondary processing. The key products include:

  • Fructose-series Products:Emergence of healthier alternatives to sucrose, such as crystalline fructose, contributing to medical applications and diabetics.
  • Chemico-industrial Products:Production of sorbitol, mannitol, and maltol, serving various industries from cosmetics to medical applications.
  • Fermented Products:Significant industry development in alcohol, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and citric acid, contributing to diverse applications.
  • Denatured Starch, Glucose, and Glucose Syrup:Rapid developments in processing techniques, paving the way for industrialization.

Market Dynamics and Future Prospects:

While cassava products face competition from maize in certain industries, the potential for growth is promising. The market for cassava products, particularly denatured starch, remains untapped and offers substantial opportunities for expansion. Future prospects include increased yields through improved technology and the development of high-value cassava products.

Conclusions and Recommendations:

  1. Modernization of Small-scale Factories:
    • Urgent need for modernization of small-scale factories to align with local needs and overcome transportation challenges.
    • Emphasis on adapting improved varieties and farming technology to boost yields.
  2. Governmental Support for Research and Secondary Processing:
    • Governmental policies should encourage research into secondary processing techniques to accompany improvements in cassava cultivars.
    • Promotion of value-added cassava products to enhance the economic viability of cassava farming.

In conclusion, the evolution of cassava processing in China presents a compelling narrative of transformation and potential. With strategic modernization and continued support, cassava could become a cornerstone of economic development in southern China, benefiting local communities and contributing to the nation’s industrial landscape.

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