Cassava Stories
Comparison of a Farinha factory in Parana, Brazil and a Gari processing center in Nigeria

                    Back to the last story


Farinha is the Brazilian gari. Farinha is a Brazilian food product made from cassava that looks like gari. The only difference being that the farinha is not fermented before roasting, but both products look alike (Fig 1, 3). Farinha is extremely popular in various states of Brazil and it is eaten with many plates. Brazil is producing an estimated 4 million tons of farinha per year. Similarly, gari is very popular in west Africa and its use could be extended in the rest of Africa in the near future because of its long shelf life, which makes it attractive for urban consumers in particular.

Both products have a long shelf life because they are quite dry, gari is usually around 8% humidity and farinha humidity could be of 4%. In Brazil farinha is sold in various ways from large bags of 50kg to bottles of 1kg..

Industrialized production of farinha in Parana state. In Brazil, the production of farinha is done both traditionally and industrially (Fig 2). Today there is a long list of companies producing farinha and trading farinha in all states of Brazil. There are many variants of farinha based on slight differences in the preparation, mostly about using two roasting phases and different level of cooking temperatures (Fig 1).

Parana was “colonized” by Brazilians in the 1950’s firstly for lumber and coffee and later on for cassava and cattle and today for soybean. Because the manpower was very reduced in the state farmers and processors immediately developed the mechanization of the production of the processing. Today there are 163 factories in Parana producing from 10t to 180t per day of farinha. The norm is around processing 200t of fresh roots per day for 60t of farinha. Most of the farinha is exported in the other states of Brazil.

The cassava roots to produce farinha. The cassava roots to produce farinha are quite different from those cultivated in Africa. They are usually cultivated over two cycles of a total of 16-20 months, with a cut back of the plant during the winter season after 6-8 months growth. The roots are short and the peels are thin making peeling an easy process with less waste (6% max). The major difference is also the DMC which, unless of a particular stress of the plants, is around 35-40%. This is making the processing much easier with a much higher efficiency. The low DMC will remain a major constraint in Africa for the industrialization of gari, until high DMC CVs will be produced by the breeders.

Mechanization of the cassava production is a pre-requisite for industrialization. The other major difference is the yield which was 28 t/ha in 2014 in Parana, instead of about 10 t/Ha in Africa. This will have to be changed in Africa for allowing industrialization of the gari production. We do know that mechanization of the production with the best agronomic practices and available improved CVs would boost the production to 25-30 t/Ha, making it compatible with an industrialization similar to the farinha production in Brazil.

Source of energy to produce farinha. An additional difference is the source of energy. In Parana, factories are running with some amount of electricity from the grid to run engines but the majority of the energy to roast the farinha is from a mixture of 80% biogas and 20% of wood. The biogas is produced entirely from waste from the factory and the wood is produced from planted Eucalyptus trees in the state. In other words, there is no impact on the environment from modern farinha factories. New gari factories in Africa should include the biogas production from waste effluents and solid waste.

No waste in farinha factories. Because the peels of the roots are very thin, the solid waste is less than 6% versus 30% for gari. This solid waste is processed to produce fresh cattle feed consumed in the state as well. This constitutes an additional revenue for the factory. Farinha factories consume 3m3 of water per ton of roots, but most of the effluent from the press is recycled, all the liquid waste of the factory is collected in ponds covered with a thick plastic cover to recuperate the methane form the bacterial fermentation. The effluents of the ponds are used to irrigate farms nearby which is making an additional revenue for the factory. Practically there is nothing wasted in a farinha factory. If this was applied to a gari factory in Africa it would make a huge difference for the environment and for the workers.

Impact of the use of fermentation. In absence of fermentation the effluents at the press are very low in starch and the pressing operation very easy to do, especially with the new press machines used in Parana. In the case of fermentation press machines from Brazil would have to be adapted to gari production as it is well established that pressing is fairly different, but Brazilian engineers are familiar with this issue. The second impact of fermentation is the need to stock the matter for 1-3 days, meaning stocking 100 to 300 tons of cassava for a 100 t/day factory. There will be an additional cost for this storage compared to farinha. Brazilians also use fermentation in some cases but generally for a very short period of time, this could be explored.

Impact of industrialization of gari. A comparison of a farinha factory with a gari center processing 100 t/day has been done with available information (Table 1). It is obvious that the farinha factory is far more efficient than a gari processing center in many respects:
1- Efficacy of production per capita: there is a ratio of 69 between the two systems, this is the combined effect of high DMC and machine use. Pricewise it is highly dependent of the cost of the roots (double in Brazil compared to Nigeria), on the price of sales products (much higher for gari), but again the ratio is in the magnitude of 40 in favor of farinha.
2- Number of workers; very few people (35) are needed to run a farinha factory versus huge numbers for a gari processing center (1200), because all is done manually in Africa. Some people would see the impact of industrialization of gari production in Africa greatly impacting the number of working women, and therefore a loss of income for women who would not be employed anymore. Some other people would see it as a gain for these women to do a more productive and rewarding job. Peeling cassava roots all day long is certainly not improving the future of these women. Plans should be developed in parallel to industrialization to make sure that these women would be embarked into other more rewarding activities. However, it should also be noted that new gari factories would not replace existing traditional gari centers, but would come in addition to, therefore the transition would be slow and progressive, allowing time for the labor force to find new jobs.
3- No children are working in farinha factories: this simple fact would send all the children to school, allowing them to learn new skills and to climb the economic ladder!
4- Impact on the environment: the use of biogas is an enormous improvement on both the cost and the impact on nature. This should also be developed in Africa.
5- Cost of roots; although the cost of the roots is double in Brazil compared to Africa, the system is highly economical. This is making cassava the most productive crop for farmers and allows input and new equipment, which in turn increase yield.
6- Working conditions: modern farinha factories are super clean, with no starch dust, no effluent, no bad smell… therefore very safe for workers. This would be a huge improvement in Africa.
7- Food safety conditions: a farinha factory is improving and controlling the food safety simply because the food is in contact with stainless steel equipment, because manual handling is limited or non-existent, because the processing is fast, and finally because they clean constantly. This would be a huge improvement in Africa.

All in all, there are many obvious benefits to industrialize the gari processing in Africa, there will be however a number of challenges to meet. The first question will be an economical question: in the African context will it be economical to build and run such factory? A detailed economic study should be quickly realized to answer this question.
The remaining issues will be the quality of the roots (DMC content), the regular supply of the roots, the capital investment needed, and the maintenance of the equipment. All these elements, but DMC content of the roots, could and should be carefully planned in a good development strategic plan in Africa.

The plan should comprise but is not limited to:
- A detail economic study of a gari factory using Brazilian equipment
- A formal collaboration with Brazil and African nations
- A formal collaboration between Brazilian companies and African entrepreneurs
- The set-up of an affordable loan program for African entrepreneurs
- The development of a network in Africa to sell and maintain Brazilian equipment
- A strong plan to train African technical personnel in Brazil
- A strong plan to breed new cassava CV in Africa with high and stable DMC

Cost of a farinha factory. A modern farinha factory of 200t/day in Brazil costs about $1 million in equipment and $2.5 millions with land, structures, trucks, electrical installations, control quality laboratory, computers, and a biogas station.

Fig 1. Diagram showing the process to produce farinha and picture of bags of farinha on the market
Fig 2. Traditional preparation of the farinha (left) and industrial preparation (right)
Fig 3. Diagram showing the process to produce gari and picture of bags of gari on the market
Fig 4. Traditional fermentation of the gari (left) and roasting of the gari (right)

Table 1: Comparison of the elements of a farinha factory and of a gari processing center, both processing 100t/day of cassava roots. The green cells indicate the advantageous elements and the yellow cell indicate the relative efficiency.


View this Story in Word
View more supporting information in PowerPoint and PDF format