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January 9, 2008

Overview of the Cassava Sector in Vietnam



Cassava in Vietnam is among the four most important food crops. But it has always been considered a secondary crop even though it has played an important role in national food security, especially during the difficult years of the late 1970s. During the past two decades of economic renovation, Vietnam has successfully escaped lingering food deficiency. Cassava is now an important source of cash income to small farmers, who either use it for animal feeding or for sale to starch factories. In 2005, cassava fresh root production in Vietnam was about 5.70 million tones, up from only 1.99 million tones in 2000. This was achieved through both area expansion, from 237,600 ha in 2000 to 390,000 ha in 2005 (11.7% annual growth), and marked increases in yield, from 8.36 t/ha in 2000 to 14.61 t/ha in 2005 (14.7% annual growth). While ten years ago there were no medium- or large-scale cassava starch factories in Vietnam, there are now 53 cassava processing factories in operation and another seven factories under construction, with a total processing capacity of 2.4-3.8 million tones of fresh roots/year. Total cassava starch production in Vietnam was about 800,000- 1,200,000 tones, of which 70% was exported and 30% used domestically.

Fuel Ethanol production from cassava in Vietnam

Vietnam has developed an E10 policy requiring the production of 100 to 150 million liters per year. The Petroleum services and tourism company (Petrosetco) and Japan’s Itochu Co-operation has signed an MOU to set up a joint venture to build a 100 million liters per year fuel ethanol refinery valued at $100 million using cassava chips as raw material. The fuel ethanol plant construction located at Hiep Phuoc industrial zone has commenced and will be completed in the first quarter of 2009.

Vietnam is now probably the second largest exporter of cassava products, after Thailand. In 2002/03, the trade of cassava products all over the world was about 5.9 million tones, including dried chips, pellets and starch. Thailand and Vietnam were the two main exporting countries, with 5.6 and about 0.2 million tones of cassava products exported. Major markets of Vietnam’s cassava exports are the P.R. of China and Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and countries in Eastern Europe. Besides, animal feed factories also contributed significantly to the increasing demand for cassava roots. Although in Vietnam cassava processing is a relatively new business and export volumes are still low, the cassava processing factories are new and modern. That is why Vietnam’s cassava products may have a competitive advantage in the world market.

New Progress in Cassava Research and Extension

Cassava breeding and varietal dissemination in Vietnam have made continuous progress before 1985, Gon, H34 and Xanh Vinh Phu were the most popular cassava varieties. From 1986 to 1993, HL20, HL23 and HL24 were selected from the collection of local varieties at Hung Loc Agricultural Research Center (HARC), and were grown extensively in South Vietnam with annual areas of about 70,000 to 80,000 ha planted to these varieties.

During the past seventeen years (1988-2005) the Institute of Agricultural Science of South Vietnam (IAS) and the Vietnam Cassava Research and Extension Network (VNCP), in close cooperation with CIAT, VEDAN and other starch processing factories have developed and disseminated mainly new high-yielding varieties: KM60, KM94, SM937-26, KM95, KM95-3, KM98-1, KM98-5, KM98-7 and KM140. KM60 and KM94 are the local names of the two Thai varieties Rayong 60 and Kasetsart 50, respectively, introduced as clonal material in 1989 and 1990, and tested and selected as highly promising in both north and south Vietnam. The others were selected from sexual seed after evaluation of about 24,300 seeds introduced from CIAT/Colombia and the Thai-CIAT program. We have also produced ourselves more than 6,300 hybrid seeds from 9-15 cross combinations; KM98-5 and KM140 are advanced cultivars selected from these crosses, which are now ready for release. During the 2001-2005 period, VNCP promoted the rapid multiplication and wide distribution of high-yielding and high-starch varieties, and the adoption of sustainable cassava production practices, especially in the Central Coast, Central Highlands and Northern mountains and uplands. Up to now, ten million stakes of new varieties, mainly KM94, KM98-5 and KM140, were distributed to various provinces in this project. In 2004/05 about 270,000 ha of cassava in Vietnam were planted with new varieties; this corresponds to about 60% of the total cassava area in the country. Cassava yields and production in several provinces have doubled, stimulated by the construction of new large-scale cassava processing factories.

New high-yielding cassava varieties and more sustainable production practices have increased the economic effectiveness of cassava production. Many farmers have become rich by growing cassava. For example, in An Vien and Doi 61 communes in Dong Nai province, 97% of the agricultural land has poor gray sandy soil.

Previously, farmers grew the old cassava varieties Gon and HL23 with average yields of about 9–12 t/ha. In recent years, by growing new high-yielding varieties and applying improved cultural practices, the average yield in this commune increased up to 16-32 t/ha. Many farmers are now growing varieties KM94, KM98-5 and KM140, obtaining 25-35 t/ha in areas of 3-5 hectares.

Conclusion: Lessons from Vietnam

Vietnam is a classic example of how cassava can contribute to rural industrialization and development. Previously, people were reluctant to grow cassava because they thought that cassava caused soil degradation and produced low profits. But in reality one hectare of cassava can produce 60-80 tones of fresh roots and leaves. The situation has changed because of the development of sustainable cultivation techniques and new high-yielding varieties with the availability of a large and growing market demand. Cassava has become a cash crop in many provinces of Vietnam. Cassava chips and starch is now being produced competitively, and cassava markets are promising. The combination of wide spread production of fresh cassava roots and the processing of cassava into chips starch and ethanol has created many jobs, has increased exports, attracted foreign investment, and contributed to industrialization and modernization of several rural areas.

(Source: In: Trip report of Mr. Boma Anga about the study tour of the Nigerian delegation to Vietnam- Review by Hoang Kim)

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