Cassava back

cutting and whole manioc (cassava) isolated on white background


Cassava, Manihot esculenta, also called manioc, yuca, balinghoy or kamoteng kahoy (in the Philippines), shimolu aalu in Assamese, tabolchu (in Northeast India (Garo Hills)), mogo (in Africa), mandioca, tapioca-root, kappa (predominantly in India) and manioc root, a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family native to South America, is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. It differs from the similarly spelled yucca, an unrelated fruit-bearing shrub in the Asparagaceae family. Cassava, when dried to a powdery (or pearly) extract, is called tapioca; its fermented, flaky version is named garri.

Cassava is the third largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and maize Cassava is a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. It is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, capable of growing on marginal soils. Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava, while Thailand is the largest exporter of dried cassava.

Cassava is classified as sweet or bitter. Farmers often prefer the bitter varieties because they deter pests, animals, and thieves. Like other roots and tubers, both bitter and sweet varieties of cassava contain antinutritional factors and toxins. It must be properly prepared before consumption. Improper preparation of cassava can leave enough residual cyanide to cause acute cyanide intoxication and goiters, and may even cause ataxia or partial paralysis. The more toxic varieties of cassava are a fall-back resource (a “food security crop”) in times of famine in some places.

World production of cassava root was estimated to be 184 million tones in 2002, rising to 230 million tones in 2008.] The majority of production in 2002 was in Africa, where 99.1 million tones were grown; 51.5 million tonnes were grown in Asia; and 33.2 million tones in Latin America and the Caribbean. Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava. However, based on the statistics from the FAO of the United Nations, Thailand is the largest exporting country of dried cassava, with a total of 77% of world export in 2005. The second largest exporting country is Vietnam, with 13.6%, followed by Indonesia (5.8%) and Costa Rica (2.1%). Worldwide cassava production increased by 12.5% between 1988 and 1990.