Processing high-quality cassava flour for use in bakery products.
Photo: A. Abass

08.09.2014

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The rising demand for biomass is transforming agriculture from a food to a complex biomass-supplying and -processing sector, which the countries of the South could benefit from. New prospects could arise for them to go beyond their role of pure raw material suppliers. However, a value chain approach is insufficient in this context. The biomassbased value web appears to offer an alternative approach.

The increasing global demand for biomass, as primary agricultural products and feedstock for various forms of usage, has started to change the global agricultural production and price structure. Studies conclude that the high demand for biofuels in the USA and European Union was the most crucial factor for the emergence of the food price crisis in 2007/8.

However, on bioenergy‘s coat-tails, biomass demand for other uses has increased: Substituting biomass-based products for crude oil-based products in various industrial areas is – if not yet in mass-production – in its experimental phase. For instance, the market for biomass-based plastic is growing. The Coca-Cola company is already using 30 per cent biomass-based PET plastic, while Toyota and other car brands have started to replace oil-based plastic for cars with bioplastics. This rise in global biomass demand is an opportunity for many agricultural-based, low-income economies to diversify their economy. Yet, concerns prevail that producing more and diversified non-food crop biomass commodities will compete with domestic food production and perpetuate these countries’ status as mere suppliers of raw materials.

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