Strong global harvest yields mean that supply on international markets is more than sufficient. The figures indicate that there is enough to meet worldwide demand, as the Union zur Förderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen (Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants, UFOP) notes in its updated report on global market supply, pointing out nonetheless that many parts of the world suffer from severe food shortages. Around the world, hunger is caused principally by military conflicts, poor governance and extreme weather events, along with the reluctance of rich industrialised countries to provide effective food aid to combat the worst regional famines.
As UFOP underlines, the 27-page report presents the supply situation in connection with development of renewable resources for transport biofuels. Particularly outside the European Union, utilization of biofuels is driven by quota provisions, as governments in Asia, North and South America have found, largely due to structural over-supply, that they must find high-capacity market outlets in order to have a positive impact on producer prices. As UFOP points out in the report, this is confirmed by the precarious market situation for common wheat, with prices of c. 150 EUR/ tonne. The energy value of one tonne of wheat corresponds to c. 400 l fuel oil or roughly 220 EUR/tonne, depending on the current price for fuel oil. “Combustion” would therefore make more economic sense than marketing the cereal for bread production, as UFOP calculations reveal.
Agricultural commodities for material and energy uses make up an increasingly significant percentage of the basket of goods and services consumed in industrialised countries and major agricultural export nations. This development is also presented in the report in connection with the binding international goal of a maximum 2° C rise in global temperature, preferably limited to a 1.5 °C increase, by 2050. The UFOP criticises the failure to identify the significance of biomass production, and the opportunities related to this obligation specifically for the agricultural sector as a supplier of sustainably produced carbon sources. The focus has instead been on poorly informed debate on the “food or fuel” issue or on iLUC.
Whilst there is still a steep learning curve, with studies currently underway, for the bio-economy of biomass for material use, EU biofuel policy is forging ahead with legally enshrined provisions on sustainable biomass production and processing. These range from dated biomass origin certification (January 2008) to a requirement to demonstrate greenhouse-gas reduction of at least 60% compared with fossil fuels for new installations from 2018. In the light of the current discussion on recast of the Renewable Energies Directive (RED II), UFOP highlights the need for improved social criteria, as also underscored in the European Court of Auditors’ report. The decisive point however is that the certification must be provided as a prerequisite for European Union market access, although to date this applies only to utilization as a biofuel. UFOP endorses the increasingly insistent calls for further development of these criteria to create a framework for fair global competition, irrespective of the end use in question. Supply-side increases cannot be taken as the yardstick to assess the sustainability of booming global agricultural production if the countries that top the league table for agricultural exports “generate” this outcome at the expense of biodiversity and biotope protection.
The report is available as a free download.
The charts of the UFOP Report on Global Market Supply 2017/2018 can be downloaded here.
Source: UFOP, press release, 2018-01-08.