Thailand’s Tapioca Starch Industry Overview

Thailand boasts the title of the world’s largest cassava and tapioca starch manufacturer, making it a natural choice for your primary source of tapioca starch. By gaining insights into Thailand’s cassava and tapioca industry, including their cultivation regions and trade statistics, you can develop a profound understanding and confidently identify the ideal supplier to fulfill your requirements.

The advantages of Thailand’s cassava industry

Thailand’s cassava products have several advantages that contribute to its success as a leading exporter in the global market:

High quality: Thailand is known for producing high-quality cassava products. The country has established quality standards and regulations to ensure that its tapioca starch, chips, pellets, and other by-products meet international standards.

Abundant supply: Thailand has a substantial and consistent supply of cassava due to its favorable climate and soil conditions for cassava cultivation. This ensures a steady and reliable source of raw materials for the processing industry.

Diversified product range: Thailand’s cassava processing industry is well-developed and can produce a wide range of value-added cassava products, including starch, flour, chips, pellets, and ethanol. This diversity allows the country to cater to various market demands.

Competitive pricing: Thailand’s production costs for cassava products are relatively low compared to many other countries. This cost competitiveness is a result of factors such as affordable labor, government support, and proximity to export markets. As a result, Thai cassava products can be competitively priced in the global market.

Strong export network: Thailand has an extensive network of trade agreements and relationships with over 100 countries, facilitating the export of its cassava products to various international markets.

Government support: The Thai government has a history of supporting the cassava industry through various measures, including financial assistance to farmers and processors, research and development initiatives, and export promotion efforts.

Consistent quality control: Thailand places a strong emphasis on quality control and safety standards, ensuring that its cassava products meet international regulatory requirements and customer expectations.

Geographic advantage: Thailand’s strategic location in Southeast Asia provides easy access to major export markets, both in Asia and beyond, making it more cost-effective to transport cassava products to global customers.

Sustainability: Thailand has made efforts to promote sustainable cassava farming practices, which align with the growing demand for environmentally friendly and socially responsible products.

Cassava cultivation in Thailand: Regional insights

Cassava cultivation is widespread across various regions of Thailand, with the exception of the southern region. The northeastern region leads in cassava production, accounting for 54.5 percent of the total, followed by the central region at 25.6 percent, and the northern region at 19.9 percent. In total, cassava cultivation spans across 48 provinces, encompassing approximately 7.9 million rai of land and yielding a production of over 30.23 million tons in 2013.

Noteworthy cassava cultivation provinces include Nakhon Ratchasima, Kamphaeng Phet, Kanchanaburi, Sa Kaeo, Nakhon Sawan, and Chaiyaphum. These six provinces collectively contribute to more than 50 percent of the nation’s cassava cultivation area.

Northeastern region

The northeastern region comprises provinces such as Nakhon Ratchasima, Chaiyaphum, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Loei, Khon Kaen, and Buriram. These provinces cover 1,862,186 acres of planting area, 1,775,205 acres of harvesting area, and produce 15.39 million tons.

Central region

The central region includes provinces like Kanchanaburi, Lopburi, Prachinburi, Sa Kaeo, Chachoengsao, Chonburi, and Chanthaburi, with a total planting area of 940,977 acres, 905,394 acres for harvesting, and 8.13 million tons of cassava.

Northern region

The northern region, which encompasses Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan, Phitsanulok, Phetchabun, and Tak, has 770,968 acres of planting area, 743,292 acres for harvesting, and produces 6.71 million tons of cassava.

Thailand cassava products

Thailand stands as the world’s foremost exporter of cassava products due to its well-established cassava industry. The country’s significant contributions to the global market include supplying 80% of native starch exports, 57% of cassava chip exports, and 30% of modified starch exports.

Nevertheless, Thai exports of cassava pellets took a significant hit following the European Union’s decision in 2005 to discontinue imports of this product, favoring alternatives. This EU policy substantially reshaped Thai exports, shifting the focus from Europe to a heavy reliance on Asian markets, particularly China, which now accounts for 64% of Thailand’s cassava product exports.

Native starch

In 2019, native starch represented 43.2% of Thailand’s total cassava product exports by volume. The primary markets for native starch were China (54% by value of all native starch exports), followed by Indonesia (11%), Taiwan (9%), Malaysia (5%), and Japan (5%).

The stability and growth of these export markets depend significantly on downstream industries, such as food processing, paper production, beverages, and textiles.

Cassava chips

Cassava chips comprised another 36.6% of Thai cassava product exports by volume. Nearly 99% of these exports were destined for China, where they are utilized in various applications, including animal feed, alcohol, citric acid, and ethanol production.

However, the structure of the export market and the dominance of purchasing power in China leaves Thai suppliers with limited bargaining power and exposed to risks, as seen in 2019 when China reduced cassava chip imports and turned to domestically-grown corn, impacting Thai exporters significantly.

Modified starch

This high-value-added product accounted for 15.8% of Thai cassava exports by volume. The demand for modified starch is closely tied to the outlook of downstream industries, such as cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

The primary export markets for modified starch were Japan (30% of 2019 exports by value), China (24%), Indonesia (8%), and South Korea (7%).

Cassava pellet

The EU’s decision in 2005 to reduce cassava pellet imports had a profound effect on Thai producers, resulting in a decline in exports. In 2019, cassava pellets constituted a mere 0.2% of Thai cassava exports.

Other cassava products

The remaining 4.2% of cassava exports consisted of diverse products, including cassava root, sago (made from tapioca), and cassava pulp. Key markets for these products included South Korea (32% of 2019 exports), New Zealand (22%), China (16%), and Turkey (15%).

Thailand’s tapioca starch trade

Thailand’s tapioca starch exports

In 2021, Thailand reinforced its global standing as the foremost exporter of tapioca starch, boasting an impressive $1.64 billion in exports. Tapioca starch secured its position as the 30th most exported product from Thailand during that year, underscoring its vital role in the country’s export landscape.

Thailand’s tapioca starch imports

During 2021, Thailand emerged as the 35th largest global importer of tapioca starch, with a total import value of $1.92 million. Tapioca starch occupied the 3095th spot in Thailand’s list of imported products, revealing a relatively modest level of import activity within the nation. Thailand primarily procured tapioca starch from Laos, accounting for $1.36 million. Noteworthy import partners included Cambodia ($221,000), Germany ($86.7k), Brazil ($84.6k), and the United States ($67.6k).

Thailand’s tapioca starch association

The Thai tapioca starch association is an organization established over 39 years ago by forward-thinking tapioca starch producers in Thailand. Its primary mission is to serve as a central coordinating body to support and promote the tapioca starch industry, encompassing various aspects like production, marketing, and technological advancements. By doing so, the association aims to benefit the broader Thai economy.

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