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Independent Professional: Experienced educator and management consultant for engineering educational institutions, researcher, trainer, technical consultant on sustainable technologies, related to cement manufacturing and characterisation, using industrial and agricultural wastes in cement and concrete, durability of concrete and fuel cell power.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Competition between biofuel and food production: Brazilian experience

The Brazilian production of major food commodities increased fivefold between 1961 and 2008. In the same time, the area cropped with sugar cane increased with high growth rates, currently covering 3% of the area dedicated to agricultural production in Brazil. In order to assess a possible competition between biofuel and food production, the development of agricultural productivity and area expansion in the past was analysed.

Three scenarios were investigated, simulating possibilities of future changes in Brazilian agriculture. The results demonstrated that primary food production could be enhanced by 1.5 times while bioethanol production was enhanced simultaneously by 1.8 times over the years 2007/2008 and 2020. The generated bioethanol volumes would meet 38% of the total energy demand in Brazilian transport sector, applied to the year 2007. 

The second scenario evaluated an agricultural development with a higher focus on biofuels. It was projected that the production of bioethanol could be increased by 3.0 times to 76.7 million m3 of bioethanol, while increasing at the same time primary food production with the factor 1.4 aligned to the projected population growth. This bioethanol volume represents 67% of the total energy demand in Brazilian transport sector in the year 2007. 

A third scenario demonstrated that food production could be increased even with no area expansion higher than the projected population growth, due to a continued increase of productivity. At the same time bioethanol production would rise to 32 million m3 without occupying more area.

Ref: Martin Gauder et. al., "The impact of a growing bioethanol industry on food production in Brazil", Applied Energy, Volume 88, Issue 3, March 2011, Pages 672-679