All about Starch!

The past weekend was a very revealing one for me.

In my cassava processing venture, I had always wondered if there could be any value derived from the waste produced during the process of converting cassava to garri.

Garri is a form of roasted coarse grit obtained from Grating peeled cassava and squeezing out its liquid content.

Garri in the open market

What comes out from the squeezed mash is milky in colour and when settled, leaves a yellow tinged clear mixture of cyanide and water at the top, with a white substance at the bottom.

It was a pleasant surprise to me to discover that the white substance is actually starch.

Native starch.

Dry, powdered native starch

Upon further research I discovered that starch is one of the semi processed intermediary product that commands a high globally traded value.

Today, one metric ton (MT) of starch, is worth anywhere between $850 and $1,200. The value depends on its purity and industrial need.

You see, starch is edible.

A Nigerian treating his European colleague to the Nigerian delicacy

In fact, many Nigerian nationalities eat starch as a premium staple

A dish of starch (prepared with Pam oil) and Banga soup (also made from palm produce)

It was a revelation to me to discover that this waste starch (known as native starch) has a value as long as it can be recovered during the exercise of processing cassava for food.

Global production of starch today stands in the region of 100-120m MT annually. It is estimated to have a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 5.58%. The market is billed to grow to 151.6m MT of starch production annually in 2024

Projections for the global Starch market in 5 years

Such figures, when valued in dollars and cents are simply mind blowing!

How does this apply to Nigeria?

Nigeria being the largest cassava producer in the world, is estimated to produce over 60m MT of cassava annually.

Given that the starch content of cassava is approaching 30% (Thailand, the world’s biggest exporter of cassava starch, is targeting 29% extraction efficiency this year), we can safely estimate that Nigeria’s cassava processors waste about 10% of the starch content of all processed cassava.

This is because food staples such as garri, and others like fufu, consist of between 20-22% of the weight of the cassava from with they are obtained.

The starch wasted from cassava peels and the main dewatering process of cassava in total in Nigeria is anywhere between 5-9m MT annually.

This mind blowing quantity of waste is estimated at being in the region of $7.69b, which is approaching a quarter of the Nigerian federal annual budget!

Nigeria wastes about 9m MT valued at $7.69b in native cassava starch annually

From estimate of Nigeria’s cassava production and processing norms

To put the above in perspective, it is the equivalent of pumping 349,000 barrels of crude oil wastefully into the Atlantic ocean EVERYDAY

Such wasted starch (needless to say) also causes extensive pollution to the ground water and increases waterborne diseases due to a reduction in human access to clean water.

What can be done? Or more importantly, how can this situation deliver profit?

I was thus researching this weekend on the uses of native starch, and more importantly how to sell it considering the less than hygienic conditions in which the starch produced and wasted in Nigeria is currently obtained.

The most valuable characteristic in starch is that it is edible, and this is what bestows international prices as high as $1,200 per MT. By comparison, crude oil is currently priced at $442 per MT

Crude oil per metric ton = $442

Starch per metric ton = $850

Current market prices

I still had a problem though. The way starch is currently produced in Nigeria by small informal farmers means that when retrieved, it will most likely not be edible.

How then to sell non-edible native cassava starch? I thought of industries such as textiles and paper, but I wasn’t convinced because there are so few of them that are functional these days.

And then I stumbled on a surprising application.


Nigeria’s laundry service industry is estimated to consume over 2,600 MT of laundry starch every year.

This sums up to between $2.8m and $8.3m annually. This is Nigeria alone.

When we extrapolate to the entire African continent, and the global laundry starch market, we begin to see potential of all that wasted starch from the cassava processing activity performed by millions of small scale and informal rural Nigerian and African processors.

Cold water starch (the name given to the modified native starch further processed to optimize laundry) is generally sold for about $1.15 per kilogram in Nigeria.

I reckon that it can be produced and sold for $0.7 with about 60% in net margins.

Processing 1 Ton of cassava daily into garri will yield (conservatively) about 50kg of native starch which in turn will produce 125kg of cold water starch (CWS)

Selling it will yield daily revenues of $87.5 in starch, and $59 in garri. Total production cost for both processes is estimated at $53. Therefore net daily margin is put at $93.5 per MT of cassava processed daily.

Scaling up that process to 8 tons of cassava daily will yield ($93.5 x 8=) $748 daily

Therefore our requirement of $12,200 (an additional $3,900 investment to the initially requested $8,300) will reach break even within 4 – 8 weeks of production and sale of the Garri and CWS

2 replies on “All about Starch!”

40kva generator = 1.4m

2 nos automatic fryers =1.2m

Transportation and installation = 200k

Retro fitting/construction = 250k

Weekly cassava cost =360k

Equipment (plastics 20k, chainsaw 72k, scales 66k, gas cylinder 50k, burners 20k, wheelbarrows 22k, pots 20k, small hammer mill 35k) =310k

Chemicals = 500k

Miscellaneous =100k

Total =N4.32m


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