UN Food and Agricultural Organisation chief Jacques Diouf has urged the EU and US to lower protectionist barriers against ethanol imports to promote the development of biofuels in developing countries. They are often better suited to their production. Many analysts think that the environmental equation does not add up in the developed world for biofuels, quite apart from their likely impact on food prices.
At present, the bioenergy industry is regulated by domestic policies rather than international agreement. Diouf would like opportunities created for developing countries to take advantage of their comparative advantages in terms of ecosystems and climates that are more suited to biomass production, as well as ample reserves of land and labour.
The US, Europe and Brazil last year accounted for almost 95 per cent of the world's biofuel production with Canada, China and India produced most of the rest. Biofuel production, mostly of corn-derived ethanol in the US and rapeseed-derived biodiesel in Europe, doubled between 2000 and 2005, but still accounted for just 1 per cent of global road transport fuel. This is projected to rise to 4 per cent ny 2030.
At present rich countries' traiffs make it uneconomic for poor countries to grow biofuel crops. The problem for developing countries is exacerbated by food prices being pushed up by the biofuel industry's rising consumption of crops. Corn prices this year reached an 11-year high of $4.30 a bushel while wheat prices rose recently to $6.96 a bushel, the highest sive 1996.