Cassava, manioc, tapioca, mang sapharang ...

Trip Start Aug 30, 2012
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Trip End Mar 21, 2013


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Flag of Thailand  , Roi Et,
Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I feel tired this morning and am sick of the sight of bamboo so cry off a visit to the farm again.
Whilst sat in the garden this morning I noticed that my favourite orchid was just starting to go over so it must be nearly time to leave.
Bike into Phon Thong and the internet where I book our hotel for Bangkok next Thursday night.
Force myself out to the farm tonight.

A few weeks ago I wrote something about cassava and several people asked me about it.  I promised to write some more and can now do just that.
In this part of the country cassava (many names around the world but perhaps tapioca is the better known in UK) is probably the third most popular farm crop after rice and sugar and shortly ahead of rubber.  It usually seems to be planted late in the year after the rice has been harvested although it doesnt seem to have a fixed season and one person could be planting at the same time that someone else is harvesting.
It is self sustaining inasmuch as once the root tubors have been dug up the stems of the plants are cut up into about 1ft lengths and used for replanting for the following year.  It amazes me how well it seems to grow without any water at all between November and April.  In fact it seems to need little care and attention at all which is probably why it is so popular around here !  Clear the land with the iron buffalo and dig it into ridegs, plant the short stems, take out the weeds every couple of months and Robert's your dad's brother as they say ...
Once the tubors have been dug they are piled high in trucks and taken to the Kalasin Flour Company factory about 25km from here where they are processed into flour.  I have passed this factory in the busy season and seen queues of a couple of miles waiting to offload their cargoes at the factory.
Financially it seems to pay little.  At last years prices I was told about 2Bht (4p UK) per kilo.  1 rai of land (about 1600 sqm) yields about 2000kg.  By the time you have counted in the labour to plant it, dig it out, the cost of the transport to the factory and any fertilizers used, there isnt much left.  For the past few years one of Jai's nehpews, Tia, who grows cassava on the land next to our palm trees has actually lost money over the year.  When I ask him why he still bothers to plant it he tells me its because that it what he has always done and what is his alternative.  I try to explain that he would actually be better off simply not panting the land at all if he doesnt want to try a different crop but he set in his ways ... 
Check out http://www.thaitapiocastarch.org/background.asp if you are really keen ?!
We planted a couple of cassava in the garden last year mainly for decorative value and now they are really tall.  There are several varieties, some are bitter and cant be eaten but the ones we planted you are supposed to be able to eat - we havent.
I went into the garden this morning and cut the biggest intending to dig out the tubors etc for a photo.  The ground is so dry and hard that I soon gave up and left them there to rot.
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