Written by Morris Aron and Worldwatch Institute
Image21-August-2007: A steep rise in prices of agricultural commodities
that has been linked to the global boom in biofuels is good for the
world's rural poor, a new report says.
The findings, published in a book, are contrary to recent fears that
increased use of food crops in the manufacture of biofuels could lead to
marked rise in food insecurity with the poor as the biggest losers.
Worldwatch, the publisher of the report, says that though demand for
biofuels may make life harder for the urban poor, the rural folks stand
to benefit from sale of agricultural produce to manufacturers of biofuels.
"Decades of declining agricultural prices have been reversed thanks to
the growing use of biofuels," says Christopher Flavin, president of the
Mr Flavin says the decline in prices has been a result of American and
European government subsidies to crops such as corn, cotton, and sugar
despite strong protest from growers in poor countries.
The World Health Organisation estimates that there are approximately 800
million undernourished people in the world, most of who live in rural
areas in developing countries.
Experts now say growth in biofuels production may have unexpected
economic benefits to this group of people.
Of the 47 poorest countries, 38 are net importers of oil and 25 import
all of their oil.
The recent tripling of oil prices has been seen a posing the biggest
threat to economic progress in these nations making biofuels a viable
Worldwatch says nations that develop domestic biofuels industries are
likely to reap huge benefits through direct purchase of raw materials
from own farmers rather than spending scarce foreign exchange on
In Kenya for example, sugar producing companies have integrated
biofuels production into their plans as part of fuel generation activities.
Once the plants are operational, cane that had previously gone to waste
will soon find its way into factories to manufacture bio-fuels and
generate electricity among other uses.
World biofuels production rose 28 per cent to 44 billion litres in 2006,
ethanol production was up 22 per cent while bio-diesel output rose by 80
per cent, according to the figures by Worldwatch.
Although biofuels comprise less than 1 per cent of the global liquid
fuel supply, the surge in production in 2006 saw the supply of liquid
fuels worldwide rise by 17 per cent.
Mr Flavin says this rapid growth is having unintended impacts, including
posing a threat to global biodiversity as seen in Indonesia, where palm
oil plantations are encroaching into forest land and edging out the
In Brazil, the Cerrado, a vast landscape of biologically rich forests,
brush, and pasture just south of the Amazon, is coming under pressure as
sugar cane cultivation expands.
"It is critical to the stability of the climate that we prevent biofuels
from expanding at the expense of rainforests and other valuable
ecosystems that store carbon and provide other ecological services,"
says Suzanne Hunt, who directed the team of 15 researchers from four
Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts: http://pacbiofuel.blogspot.com/