Tapioca Cultivation In India & Profit

Not many people relish Tapioca for what it is. A staple food in some of the african countries, Tapioca is consumed widely in Kerala and not in any other states. Tamil Nadu the largest producer of Tapioca in the country, consumes less than a small percentage of whats produced. The parts of kerala where Tapioca is consumed normally have their demands met with the local production alone. 

In 2014-15 , the price of Tapioca and Tapioca by-products crashed to half the price from the price of previous years. The price crash was attributed to excessive produce and lack of demand. Considering only 2 states in the entire country produce over 97% of tapioca, the price crash, if attributed to lack of demand should effectively mean only one thing. Its one of the few products which have poor demand and a product which really cannot demand a price. 

FACT : India is the 11th largest exporter of Cassava but when it comes to tapioca cultivation area, we stand 8th. 

Its important to understand why Tapioca farming is not profitable in india. Its not just Tapioca as a raw product but also the byproducts which are not able to demand premium price.

To begin with Lets take into consideration where its cultivated.

Tapioca cultivation in kerala

Tapioca is a staple food in parts of kerala. Kappa, as its called locally in Malayalam is part of the breakfast cuisine in parts of kerala and is consumed with fish curry! While some parts of kerala relish the dish, half of kerala do not consume kappa as often. Mashed Steamed Tapioca dishes are common in most parts of kerala and there are a range of recipes available which is quite good if you have the palate for it.

Most of these districts have their demands met from local farmers. Its rare to find any traders acquiring products from the nearby state, Tamil Nadu, even though Tamil Nadu produces the largest amount of Tapioca in the country (nearly 62%).  The local produce is sufficient for consumption in kerala.

Tapioca Cultivation is often done in small to medium scale in kerala. Very rarely do farmers take farming of tapioca in more than 1 acre. Tapioca are often intercropped with other plants including cowpea, groundnuts or blackgram. 

Reference : http://www.celkau.in/crops/Tuber%20Crops/tapioca.aspx

Tapioca Cultivation In Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu is the Largest producer of Tapioca in india. Most of the tapioca produced in Tamil Nadu are processed and converted to flour, sago/Sabudhana or Chips. The product is rarely consumed locally and most of the sago is distributed through out the country with some exported to other countries.

Over the years, Cultivation of sago, though continuous, is not profitable for farmers. The excess production has seen a drop in price and lack of demands in foreign countries and competition has reduced tapioca profits by 50%, with some farmers going in loss.

The few farmers who are still into Tapioca production rely on nearby factories that manufacture flour and sago for profit.

Tapioca cultivation in andhra pradesh

Andhra Pradesh is not a major producer of Tapioca. The tapioca produced in Andhra are just sufficient for the local market and are often in excess. Though a few starch mills do exist in Andhra Pradesh, they are not considered major players. 

Other states with smaller tapioca cultivation include Maharashtra & Karnataka 

Varieties of Tapioca cultivated in India

  1. H-165: This variety is widely grown and is known for its high yield potential. It has a relatively short duration and is favored for its starchy tuberous roots, which are used for making tapioca pearls, chips, and flour.
  2. Sree Vijaya: Sree Vijaya is another popular variety known for its adaptability to different agro-climatic conditions. It produces large, elongated tubers with excellent cooking qualities, making it suitable for both consumption and industrial purposes.
  3. Sree Prakash: Sree Prakash is a high-yielding variety with disease resistance capabilities. It is appreciated for its uniform tuber shape and size, making it suitable for processing into various tapioca-based products.
  4. H-97: H-97 is a variety known for its drought tolerance and good root yield. It is well-suited for cultivation in regions with erratic rainfall and limited water availability.
  5. Sree Harsha: Sree Harsha is favored for its high starch content and dry matter content in the tubers. This variety is often preferred for industrial processing into starch and glucose.
  6. Valluvanad: The Valluvanad variety is known for its long tubers with high starch content. It is extensively grown in the state of Kerala for both household consumption and commercial purposes.
  7. Sabari: Sabari is a drought-resistant variety and is suitable for cultivation in regions with low water availability. It produces good yields of tubers with satisfactory cooking qualities.
  8. M-4: M-4 is a popular variety in certain regions of India, valued for its disease resistance and consistent yield. It is used for making various tapioca-based food products.
  9. Dharwad: The Dharwad variety is known for its early maturity and high yield potential. It is widely cultivated in Karnataka and other southern states of India.
  10. Madhura: Madhura is a variety known for its sweet taste and pleasant flavor. It is favored for consumption as boiled tapioca, and its leaves are also used as animal feed.

Varieties And yield

Tapioca VarietyAverage Yield (tons per hectare)
H-16520 – 25
Sree Vijaya25 – 30
Sree Prakash25 – 30
H-9720 – 25
Sree Harsha30 – 35
Valluvanad30 – 35
Sabari25 – 30
M-420 – 25
Dharwad25 – 30
Madhura20 – 25

Tapioca cultivation time

Tapioca is usually planted during April for Rainfed crops. Under irrigation, Tapioca does not have a season and can be planted any time during the year. Harvest is usually 9-11 months from the date of planting. Tapioca does not have a lot of nutrient requirements and the soil can be anywhere between loam to sandy loam soil. Clay soil is not suitable for Tapioca. The nutrient requirements for tapioca growth is minimal. Red soil is the most suitable for Tapioca cultivation

tapioca cultivation methods include creation of raised rows with enough space for walking. Weeding is recommended the first 2-3 months and the spacing is between 1 and 2 feets to 3 feet between plants. Plants are propagated from the stem of healthy tapioca plants discarding the tough portion of the stem near the root and the soft top portion. The stem is cut in 15 centimeter pieces and treated with carbendazim before planting.

Planting tapioca cuttings are easy and requires minimal work overall. Plough the land, create raised beds, ensure that there is no water logging. Irrigation for the first 2-3 months are required followed by the last month before harvest. 

Growing tapioca at home is common among most homes in kerala. Due to its ease of cultivation, almost every home will have a plant or two which is sufficient for personal consumption. Growing tapioca at home involves planting tapioca cuttings on a mound and providing nutrition and fertigation the first few weeks. The plant involves no care which makes it a wonderful crop to grow at home for organic produce.

Tapioca Production By Country

India stands 8th in the list of exporters of Tapioca. Considering that india does not consume as much tapioca, most of the tapioca cultivated is exported. While Countries like Thailand depend on tapioca Exports and a major chunk of the economy is dedicated towards Tapioca, India , even with the potential of cultivating large quantities of Tapioca takes no interest in the produce. 

The fact that Tapioca rates are not lucrative is one primary reason for the lack of interest among farmers. Also Tapioca was considered as a poor man’s food in the areas where tapioca was cultivated. When rice could not be acquired , Tapioca was considered an option and that’s the main reason why Tapioca is still considered a staple in Kerala.

The major countries which produce Tapioca include Brazil, Thailand, Nigeria, Congo , Angola, Mozambique and more. India Stands 10th in the production of cassava worldwide. Most of the african countries producing Cassava are also consumers of cassava themselves.

What Tapioca Products are Profitable.

Tapioca is rarely cooked and consumed in its natural form in India apart from kerala. But most people know about sago, the Tapioca pearls which are created from Tapioca starch.  Sago is widely consumed in almost all parts of India in some form or the other. Sago also called Sabudana is prepared as kheer or khichdi. Though widely consumed, its an occasional dish often considered a food for Fasting periods. 

Apart from sabudana The most common form where tapioca is consumed is in the form of chips. Tapioca Chips production is profitable and chips are commonly consumed in the south while most parts of the country find it a good snack occasionally. Tapioca chips production seconds the list of all tapioca by products from cassava after sago. 

Apart from tapioca Chips, Tapioca flour is also a product from cassava starch which has a good shelf life.

States with High Tapioca Cultivation in India

  1. Kerala: The southern state of Kerala is one of the leading producers of tapioca in India. Several districts in Kerala, including Kottayam, Kollam, and Alappuzha, have extensive tapioca cultivation areas.
  2. Tamil Nadu: Tapioca is widely cultivated in Tamil Nadu, especially in the districts of Salem, Coimbatore, and Erode.
  3. Karnataka: The state of Karnataka also participates in tapioca cultivation, with regions like Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, and Uttara Kannada being significant contributors.
  4. Andhra Pradesh: Some regions in Andhra Pradesh, such as West Godavari, Krishna, and Visakhapatnam, are involved in tapioca cultivation.
  5. Odisha: Tapioca is grown in certain districts of Odisha, with Ganjam and Puri being prominent tapioca cultivation areas.
  6. Assam: In the northeastern state of Assam, tapioca is cultivated in districts like Cachar, Karimganj, and Hailakandi.
  7. West Bengal: Tapioca is also cultivated in West Bengal, with certain districts like North 24 Parganas and Nadia being engaged in its cultivation.
  8. Goa: Goa also has some areas dedicated to tapioca cultivation.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on Tapioca Cultivation in India

Q: What are the major regions in India for tapioca cultivation?

A: Tapioca is cultivated in several regions across India. Some of the major states with significant tapioca cultivation areas include Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, West Bengal, and Goa.

Q: What type of climate is suitable for tapioca cultivation?

A: Tapioca thrives in a tropical to subtropical climate with a warm and humid environment. The crop prefers temperatures between 25°C to 35°C and requires well-distributed rainfall for optimal growth.

Q: What type of soil is best for growing tapioca?

A: Tapioca prefers well-draining sandy loam or loamy soils with good organic matter content. The soil should have a pH level ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 for optimal growth.

Q: How is tapioca propagated?

A: Tapioca is propagated through stem cuttings. Healthy stem cuttings with at least 2-3 nodes are planted in the soil for the establishment of new plants.

Q: What are the primary uses of tapioca in India?

A: Tapioca is used for various purposes in India. The starchy tuberous roots of tapioca are a staple food in many regions and are used to make tapioca pearls, chips, and flour. Tapioca is also utilized in the manufacturing of starch, glucose, and animal feed.

Q: How often should tapioca plants be watered?

A: Tapioca plants require regular and consistent watering, especially during dry periods. However, they should not be waterlogged, as excessive water can lead to root rot.

Q: Are tapioca plants susceptible to pests and diseases?

A: Yes, tapioca plants can be vulnerable to pests such as mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites. Diseases like mosaic virus and root rot can also affect the crop. Proper pest management and timely measures are essential to prevent damage.

Q: When is the best time to harvest tapioca?

A: Tapioca plants are generally harvested 8 to 12 months after planting, depending on the variety and growing conditions. The crop is ready for harvest when the leaves turn yellow, and the roots reach maturity.

Q: How are tapioca crops stored after harvest?

A: After harvest, tapioca roots are cleaned, washed, and stored in a cool and dry place. The roots can be stored for several weeks if kept in suitable conditions.

Q: What are some essential cultivation practices for tapioca farming in India?

A: To ensure successful tapioca cultivation, farmers should prepare the land properly, provide adequate water and nutrients, control weeds, and protect the crop from pests and diseases. Regular monitoring and proper care contribute to a healthy tapioca harvest.