World soyabean prices have climbed to a record level this week, partly because farmers in the US and Asia have been growing corn, palm oil and other crops to supply the biofuel industry. Poor harvests in Latin America and rising demand in China have added to price pressures.
One commentatorsaid ‘It is finally a trade-off between filling stomachs and filling diesel tanks in cars and trucks’ (Ashok Gulati, Director of the International Food Policy Institute)
Soyabeans are a staple product for Asian cuisine especially for the poor, as it is a key source of protein. For many Indonesians, a piece of fermented soyabean cake is often their only source of protein and last year soya products accounted for 22% of Indonesians’ protein intake, excluding rice, according to Government data.
Authorities in the countries effected are starting to take action to contain the effects of the price surge by importing lower quality soya-beans and prioritising debate on the issue, but currently producers are directly passing increased costs onto consumers.
This is just one example of how finding new ways to power vehicles is starting to have tangible unintended consequences. As the biofuel debate progresses it is essential that the overall impact of their use is considered and kept under review.
Source: Financial Times Friday 18th January 2008