The cassava starch industry started its activities in Brazil in the 1950s, and the first units were located in Santa Catarina. However, significant structural changes occurred only in the 1990s (CARDOSO E SOUZA, 1999)*.
In the 2000s, new investors entered the sector (mainly multinational groups) and institutional and economic changes occurred. Cepea started collecting prices of cassava root, starch and flour in this period, being the main source of information for the production chain. Cepea has performed the Starch Industry Census in Brazil since 2004, which has become a reference for the decision making for players in the cassava market and policy makers.
The Brazilian industrial park is one of the most modern in the world due to the cassava industrialization in the 2000s. The installed capacity in Brazil allows processing 21.4 thousand tons of root per day, and activities are concentrated in Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul and São Paulo. Over the last years, units had been established in other states, but they finished activities because of lack of raw material, among other aspects.
In 2018, Brazil produced 536.6 thousand tons of cassava starch, a significant advance of 27% compared to the year before, but the lowest since 2004. This aspect highlights one bottleneck for the industry, the industrial idleness, a result of characteristics of agricultural production and lack of institutional arrangements.
With the current installed capacity, considering 280 working days in one year and an average starch yield of 26%, it would be possible to produce more than 1.5 million tons. In order to reach this result, however, it is necessary to search for contractual relations that guarantee the supply of companies.
In spite of bottlenecks in the sector, the cassava starch industry in Brazil has kept the number of direct jobs – in 2018, the number was higher than 3.4 thousand, according to data from Cepea. Moreover, the Gross Production Value (GPV) of this production chain was above 1.3 billion BRL in the same year, 8% up compared to 2017.
The significant seasonality in production and, consequently, in prices of cassava and byproducts has affected consumption over the last years, mainly with some markets using corn starch instead of cassava starch, as paper and cardboard industry and the textile sector did. However, the amount consumed has been consolidated in the sectors of pasta, cookies and bakery, in slaughterhouses, wholesalers and, more recently, in the tapioca industry. In 2018, more companies traded the byproduct through contracts.
The data mentioned indicate that changes in the dynamics of cassava starch industry and in the consumption have been observed. The sector has a huge potential; however, in order for it to improve even more, production and price seasonality need to be reduced and exports need to increase – the recent trade deal between Mercosur and the European Union may favor shipments.
*CARDOSO, C.E.L.; SOUZA, J.S. Aspectos agro-econômicos da cultura da mandioca: potencialidades e limitações. Cruz das Almas: Embrapa Mandioca e Fruticultura, 1999. 27 p. (Embrapa Mandioca e Fruticultura. Documentos, 86)