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2400 2200 1000 UDS/t 800 600 400 200 0 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0 1978 1971 nova-index 17 corn silver orange juice soybeans copper platinum wheet cocos crude oil live cattle coffee heating oil lean hogs sugar petroleum gas gold cotton 1980 1975 Nominal 1982 1984 Wheat 1980 1986 1988 1985 1990 1990 Real (inflation adjusted) 1992 nova-index energy crude oil heating oil petroleum gas nova-indices, January 1978 = 100 The commodities are equally balanced among all indices 1994 1995 “The commodity price spikes witnessed in the last couple of years, and in particular most recently, are exceptional when viewed from the perspective of the last decade or so, but not so much so when seen in a longer historical context … the recent price spike is neither the only, nor even the most important one to occur in the last 30-plus years. In inflation adjusted terms, today’s prices fall well short of the peaks achieved in the early 1970s, and neither current maize nor wheat prices are averaging much above levels achieved as recently as the mid-1990s” [1]. Until now biofuels have had only a small effect on world food prices. But, while smaller than the increase in food and animal feedstuffs, biofuel demand is the largest source of new demand for decades and a strong factor underpinning the upward shift in agriculture commodity prices. The medium-term impact of biofuels on crop markets should not be overestimated at least until 2017, having had an influence on cereal and oilseed prices of 3% to a maximum of 10% [3]. 1996 2000 1998 2000 nova-index agriculture corn soybeans sugar cotton Fig. 2: nova price indices for agricultural and non-agricultural commodities and energy Fig 3: Inflation adjusted price movement of wheat Note:Real prices deflated by USA GDP deflator; 2007 = 1 (Source OECD-FAO) 2005 2002 2004 2010 2006 2015 2008 2017 Recently the impact of bioplastics has been about 250 times lower than the impact of biofuels, hence lower than 0.1%. Therefore, the impact of bioplastics on the world food market is negligible. Additionally, producing biofuels or bioplastics means in most cases also producing high value protein-rich by-products that can be used as animal feed. The main driver for the price increase of agricultural products is the fast growing demand for meat and milk products (see Table 1). According to a special Biofuels Digest report, ‘Fat vs Fuel’, 70 % of US corn and soy production is devoted to animal feed, not food for humans, and not fuel. Feed for animals is to provide meat, dairy and other livestock by-products. According to the FAO and the USDA, US meat consumption has increased to 62 kg per person since the 1950s, with a resulting increase in grain usage of 170 kg per person (i.e. the grain which is fed to cattle and poultry). Cheese consumption has increased faster than milk’s decline, and Americans consume an extra 81 kg of milk, which uses up another 29 kg of grain. Today 2050 People on our planet 6.5 Billions 9.0 Billions (+38%) Meat Production 229 Mio. t 465 Mio. t (+103%) Milk Production 580 Mio. t 1.043 Mio. t (+90%) Table 1: Increasing meat and milk demand worldwide (Source: Ernährungsdienst 2008) High prices for agricultural raw materials are good for some and bad for others. Unpredictable movements in food prices can still provide problems in the future. With high prices the consequences in terms of hunger or malnutrition, especially in poor urban areas, will surface. But with low prices the consequences for poor farmers will be disastrous. Until recently, hundreds of millions of farmers could not lift themselves out of poverty because of low food prices. 75% of the world‘s hungry people are still living in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Over time, high agricultural prices should benefit them. In poorer urban areas of the world the expenditure for food makes up, on average, about 50% of an individual‘s disposable income. As such, price increases in these regions have dramatic effects. This percentage climbs to 65% if the food prices rise by 30%. In wealthy countries, these effects, on the other hand, will be limited to 1 to 2% of an individual‘s income. Apart from this, the hunger issue is, however, only partially attributable to the demand for biofuels 48 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/09] Vol. 4

Basics and is much more attributable to bad policy and the poor performance of the markets [4]. Summary To sum up, the target should be to cultivate crops that use the land most efficiently for their intended purpose, independently of whether these are food or non-food crops. Even if an increasing share of arable land is used for energy and industrial material use there is still much scope for the expansion of agricultural areas and even more scope for productivity increases. However, biofuels have so far had a very small impact on food prices and the impact of bioplastics was, at 250 times less, clearly negligible. Even if they did have a significant impact, a higher agricultural price level, together with the international commitment to support sustainable agricultural development, is necessary for more investment in the agriculture sector to increase the production and secure the supply in the future. Although high food prices certainly have adverse effects for some, they will lead to the activation of agricultural land that is currently not in production and also to higher productivity on land already cultivated, which would increase the aggregate production of food, animal feed and renewable raw materials. Furthermore, high prices for agricultural products are necessary for poor farmers in developing countries to sustain their livelihoods. nova-Institute: Experts of the nova-Institute department ‘resource management’ are continuously analyzing the raw material markets and especially the markets for agricultural raw materials in industrial applications. Sources: [1] OECD-FAO 2008: Agriculture Outlook 2008-2017 [2] [3] OECD 2008: Biofuel Support Policies – an economic assessment [4] Banse, M., Nowicki, P., van Meijl, H. (LEI Wageningen UR) 2008: Why are current world food prices so high? Report 2008-040. bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/09] Vol. 4 49

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