Tapioca or Cassava or Manioc is better known in India for its role as the basic material from which Sago is made on industrial scale in Salem and Dharmapuri districts of Tamil Nadu. Of course Sago of to day is a man-made product while originally it was a natural fruit from sago plant. Its chewy texture on cooking gives it a special culinary role in many food preparations. That tapioca was once a staple food in Kerala cannot be ignored though people are eating this food less and less because of the onslaught of many diverse processed foods flooding the market there. As an industrial raw material, Tapioca is a major source of starch which has many uses in industries such as those manufacturing food products, textile sizing, oil drilling etc. That in Philippines, Tapioca is being promoted is a news.
"Mainly grown for its tubers which are a rich source of carbohydrates, cassava is also a good source of calcium and ascorbic acid. Its food uses include confectionaries, sago, vegetables, food seasoning, noodles, flour and native pastries like cassave cake, suman and bibingka. Although not a staple food of Filipinos, cassava feeds about 800 million people around the world, according to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Another important product is cassava starch, known in the world trade as tapioca flour, which is extracted from the tuber and used by a wide variety of industries—food, pharmaceutical, paper, adhesive, textile, mining and other manufacturing industries".
"In the food industry alone, studies show that cassava flour can substitute for wheat flour in baked products as much as 10 percent in bread and higher in other baked products. It is utilized as thickener for soups, baby food, sauces and gravies. Cassava flour is an excellent filler that could supplement the solid contents of ice cream. It is also a good binder for sausages and other processed-meat products to prevent these from drying up during cooking. Its use as a livestock feed in the country has also been investigated. Studies at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB) have shown that cassava meal can be used as a substitute for feed grains in compounded animal rations, while cassava leaf meal contains at least 20-percent protein. Cassava can also be a good solution to the problems of climate change and fuel shortage. In China, Thailand and Brazil, cassava is becoming an important biofuel crop. A feasibility study has found that cassava has a very high starch-to-sugar conversion ratio, which means that a high percentage of sugar can be converted from it which, in turn, is needed to produce biofuel".
An aspect not considered seriously when Tapioca is promoted as a food crop concerns its potential as a low cost source of sweeteners like glucose and high fructose syrup. The advantages of Tapioca over sugar cane include high yield per hectare, high disease resistance, low water requirement, comparatively lower inputs like fertilizers and multiple use for the crop. The potential for diverting it for creating staples like designer rice through extrusion technology has already been established. Considering the versatility, probably Tapioca deserves a better deal from the planners at the national level.