Bioenergy and Food Security - Analysis for Thailand

As concerns about global greenhouse gas emissions and a desire for clean energy sources mount, many countries are exploring bioenergy developments as a possible solution. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has set up the Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) project to assess how bioenergy developments can be implemented without hindering food security. Thailand has a rapidly developing biofuels sector.

As Thailand has traditionally benefited from a robust agricultural sector, biofuels present new opportunities for Thai farmers who have long been able to produce enough food to feed the country and plenty more for export and other uses. With its Alternative Energy.

Development Plan (AEDP), the Thai Government aims to leverage its strong agricultural sector to expand biofuels production six-fold to five billion litres by 2022. There are strong arguments for promoting biofuels and the Thai Government cites a number of them as justification for implementation of the AEDP including enhanced fuel energy security, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and new opportunities for rural development. But there are also potential risks associated with expanding biofuel production to the scale anticipated by the AEDP. Biofuel production systems compete with food production for land and agricultural resources which can potentially jeopardize food security.

The precise impact on food security depends on a range of factors including the land used for bioenergy production, feedstock, agricultural management practices, the industrial set-up of the sector and developments in global agricultural and energy markets.

In the case of Thailand the key crops for biofuel production are sugar cane, cassava and oil palm. In some instances the Thai Government is anticipating that the effect of the AEDP on the production of these crops will be considerable. For example, between 2010 and 2022, cassava production is expected to increase from 2.27 million tons to more than 15 million tons, while crude palm oil output is expected double from 1.8 million tons to 3.4 million tons.

Publication Date

August, 2010