Enhancing Cassava Starch Production in Northern Cauca, Colombia: A Comprehensive Analysis

Cassava plays a crucial role in subsistence farming in northern Cauca, Colombia, where approximately 90% of root production is dedicated to extracting sour starch. This sour starch, possessing unique functional properties, flavor, and aroma, finds its primary use in crafting traditional breads like “pandebono” and “pandeyuca,” accounting for up to 80% of sour starch production.

In the region, cassava starch extraction primarily remains an artisanal activity, although some processing plants incorporate mechanization. This agroindustry ranks third in significance, following sugar and the editorial/publishing sectors. Our study aims to comprehensively understand the challenges affecting cassava starch production in this area, contributing valuable insights for researchers to pinpoint priority areas for potential technological interventions.

This research is part of CIAT’s Cassava Utilization Section’s ongoing Research and Development (R&D) program initiated in 1989. The program, fostering an informal network of Latin American laboratories and institutions engaged in cassava starch production, seeks to provide technological alternatives to small-scale producers.

Study Objectives:

  1. Statistically analyze 1990 surveys by CIAT’s Cassava Utilization Section on the technical and economic performance of small-scale starch factories.
  2. Characterize cassava processing plants, assessing their production processes and installed capacities.
  3. Identify seasons of abundant or limited cassava sour starch supplies and evaluate distribution channels.
  4. Analyze social characteristics related to starch production and commerce.
  5. Identify factors limiting starch production and commerce.


The study surveyed small-scale sour-starch producers and middlemen, selecting 35 processing plants using stratified sampling based on size, equipment age, and geographic location. Challenges arose in obtaining comprehensive information due to middlemen’s reluctance. The study also covered root production, starch processing procedures, equipment, and maintenance.

Cassava Starch Production and Commerce Overview:

  • Root production significantly influences cassava starch processing, with some roots sold to drying plants for animal feed when market prices drop.
  • In 1991, 6,290 ha were planted to cassava in the Cauca Department, producing 71,624 t.
  • Small-scale factories in northern Cauca faced irregular production, with average weekly production ranging from 4.3 to 175.0 t in 1990.
  • Sour-starch production decreased in 1991 due to raw material and working capital shortages.
  • Starch-to-root conversion ratio is 5:1 for small-scale factories in northern Cauca.

Procedures, Equipment, and Maintenance:

  • Small-scale cassava starch factories, known as “rallanderías,” use mechanized processes for washing, peeling, grating, sieving, sedimentation, fermentation, and drying.
  • Challenges include irregular cassava supply, insufficient working capital, limited tank capacity, and a lack of spare parts.

Commercial Constraints:

  • Commercial constraints include transportation delays, plant site issues, variable starch quality criteria, water scarcity, and limited technical knowledge among processors.

Social Characteristics:

  • Cassava starch production contributes to improved living standards, job creation, and economic development in the Valle del Cauca Department.
  • However, challenges such as inadequate industrial security, environmental contamination, and limited technical knowledge persist.


  • Cassava starch production is vital in northern Cauca, facing challenges related to irregular supply, lack of credit, and equipment maintenance.
  • Socioeconomic benefits include employment for rural communities, but profits often cover basic needs without surplus for reinvestment.


  • Encourage staggered cassava crops to ensure a constant raw material supply.
  • Implement differential pricing for cassava roots based on quality and yield.
  • Provide tailored support for small-scale processors, focusing on technical, financial, and administrative aspects.
  • Incorporate operational schemes to manage labor and administrative costs effectively.
  • Implement measures to improve factory infrastructure, preserving waterways.
  • Address broader issues like health, education, housing, and public services to uplift living standards.
  • Encourage farmer associations to negotiate and participate in setting cassava starch prices, enhancing their financial and administrative capacities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *