Monday, August 20, 2007

EU farmers need to save water

European agriculture should face the same 'user pays' principle as other EU consumers of water in the coming year in order to address the growing problem of water scarcity, according to a Commission Communication. The report by the Environment DG recognises that at least 20 per cent and maybe 40 per cent of water is wasted in the EU.

Climate change is likely to make drought a more frequent problem. Presenting the report Environment Commissioner Stavros Dinas pointed out that agriculture accounts for more water use than any other sector and as much as two-thirds in Southern Europe.

Supporting studies show that potential water savings resulting from improvements in the conveyance efficiency of irrigation systems range between 10 and 25 per cent of their withdrawals. Water savings resulting from improving application efficiency can range between 10 and 60 per cent of water use. Additional water savings can be expected from changes in irrigation practices (30 per cent), use of more drought-resistant crops (up to 50 per cent) or reuse of treated sewage effluent (10 per cent).

The potential water savings in the irrigation sector would amount to 43 per cent of the current agricultural volumes absorbed.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

End protectionist biofuel barriers urges FAO chief

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.