From a total of 1.4bn ha of land used to grow crops globally in 2021, only around 8% of the area was used to supply feedstock for biofuels production, Germany’s Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants (UFOP) reported.
Most of the crops grown were used directly or indirectly, via livestock feeds, for human nutrition, according to the 25 January report.
The production of biofuel feedstock was concentrated in regions with structural supply surpluses, the report said, and this was reflected in high mandates for blending compared to the European Union, for example in Indonesia (35% biodiesel) or the USA (15% bioethanol).
“The main motives are stabilising the market and agricultural producer prices as well as making a contribution towards securing energy supply. If there were no biofuels which serve as a supply buffer, pressure on feedstock prices would increase,” UFOP said.
As high-quality protein was obtained as a by-product of biofuel production and used for livestock feeding purposes or directly in the human diet, UFOP said that discussions over the land requirement for biofuels production as part of the debate on global changes in land use disregarded the fact that the percentage of area used for protein production should be subtracted and accounted for.
“With rapeseed having a share of 60% feed protein, only 40% of the crop area should be allocated to the production of biofuels,” UFOP said.
“From the association's perspective, this would be a fair and proper approach, because missing protein volumes would have to be made up for by imports that would require additional land use.”
UFOP said this compensating effect was “deliberately neglected in all so-called indirect land use (ILUC) studies and related discussions”.
The organisation said it had emphasised this fact in view of the initiative recently announced by Germany’s federal environment minister Steffi Lemke to phase out production of biofuels from cultivated biomass from 2030.
“It is incomprehensible that the German Minister of Agriculture Özdemir supports this initiative and disregards the interdependencies that have long been common knowledge. After all, domestic and European rapeseed production to make transport fuel also secures supply of genetically unmodified rapeseed protein for milk production,” UFOP said.
The association said Lemke’s initiative was also creating precedents that put a question mark on the point and necessity of drawing up and discussing a National Biomass Strategy (NABIS) with agriculturists.
“Where is the basis of discussion if the legal framework is defined unilaterally, as in the case of biofuels?” UFOP said.