Cassava roots may be harvested at any time between 6 and 18 months after planting. During food shortages, they can be harvested as needed, often one plant – or even one root – at a time. Once harvested, cassava roots are consumed directly by the farm household, fed to livestock or sold for processing into a wide array of value-added products such as cassava starch , cassava flour, garri, sweeteners or fuel ethanol. However, harvested roots deteriorate rapidly and processing must begin within 48 hours.
Food for direct consumption
Cassava roots are washed and peeled before being boiled, steamed or roasted. In West Africa, grated roots are fermented, then roasted to produce a granulated flour called gari, or sun-dried, milled and mixed with water to make a stiff dough called fufu. In Indonesia, thinly sliced roots are fried, covered with spices and sold in local markets.
High quality cassava flour (or HQCF) is not fermented and can be used as substitute for wheat flour in bread and confectionary. Native starch extracted from the roots is used in many food products. Starch extraction can be done at almost any scale – in backyard artisanal production units and in large-scale fully mechanized factories. Many artisanal starch production units operate in Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Viet Nam, with daily output of 60 kg per worker. Semi-mechanized processing can yield up to 10 tonnes a day.
Cassava starch is produced, mainly in Asia, for use as feedstock for production of sweeteners, fructose, alcohol and monosodium glutamate, and in plywood, paper and textiles. In modern starch extraction plants, daily output is as high as 300 tonnes.
Increasingly, cassava is also being used for production of fuel ethanol; in 2012, China produced 780 million litres of bio-ethanol from 6 million tonnes of dried cassava.
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