Thailand: Cassava exports set to decline this year

Thailand’s exports of cassava and cassava products are estimated at 9 million tonnes this year, down from 11 million tonnes last year, because of reduced output related to drought.

Ronnarong Phoolpipat, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said there is high demand for tapioca and tapioca products from Thailand.

Customers are willing to buy all available quantities, but this year Thai production has been affected by drought conditions, denting output, he said.

Some farmers have switched to cultivating sugar cane, resulting in tapioca prices likely remaining favourable throughout this year because of consistent demand and limited supply, said Mr Ronnarong.

He advised farmers not to rush harvesting small cassava roots that are unsuitable for sale during periods of high prices, as it may affect the overall quality.

The fresh cassava root price is now quoted at 3.10-3.55 baht per kilogramme, above the guaranteed price of 2.50 baht per kg.

In 2022, Thailand exported a total of 11 million tonnes of cassava and cassava products, valued at US$4.4 billion (about 152 billion baht), representing a 6.90% increase in volume and an 11.2% increase in value compared with the previous year.

For the first five months of this year, Thailand exported 4.73 million tonnes of cassava and cassava products, valued at copy.7 billion, a year-on-year decrease of 21% and 19%, respectively.

According to Mr Ronnarong, the free-on-board (FOB) price of tapioca chips is quoted at $265 per tonne, a 7% decrease from last year, as China reduced purchases for alcohol production.

The FOB price of cassava flour is $570 per tonne, up 5% year-on-year.

China remains Thailand’s top export market for cassava products, accounting for 65% of the total.

Thailand exports 8 million tonnes of cassava products to China annually, including tapioca chips/pellets (69% of the total), tapioca flour (30%) and cassava solid waste (1%).

Other important export markets include Japan (7%), Indonesia (5%), South Korea (3%) and other countries (20%).

Thailand’s fresh cassava root production is estimated at 36 million tonnes this year, which is short of the domestic demand projection of 40 million tonnes.

Thailand is expected to import about 2.4 million tonnes of cassava chips from neighbouring countries, such as Laos and Cambodia, to meet the demand.

The import volume may decrease this year because of insufficient cassava production and the impact of drought, similar to Thailand, Mr Ronnarong said.