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2002. Interactive European network for industrial crops and their applications.
p. 5561. In: J. Janick and A. Whipkey (eds.), Trends
in new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.
Interactive European Network for Industrial Crops and Their
Products from plants for both the food and non-food sector more than ever
before are considered essential to the economy and well being of the EU. The
drivers for change include: (1) sustainability of agriculture, the rural economy
and industry at large; (2) environmental protection; (3) legislation and cost
of non-compliance; (4) public opinion; and (5) international agreements of various
types but with the common resolution of demanding renewable sustainable feedstocks
e.g. Kyoto and WTO discussions.
Countries in EU-15 have varied in their interest in and uptake of biorenewable
materials, but it is probably a fair summarization of the position to say that
uptake of biorenewables overall has been most successful in Germany. The development
of non-food crops in recent decades was caused by the Common Agricultural Policy
of EU and was essentially an alternative land use set aside for cereals, especially
wheat, and oilseeds; oilseed rape, and sunflower. Rexen and Munch (1984) summarized
recommendations for dealing with surplus wheat, which they envisaged being at
a high level in EU by 2000. Their recommendations were:
- That the EEC stimulates co-operation between agriculture and industry,
starting by establishing agricultural refineries as demonstration units in
various EEC countries.
- That the EEC revises its present tariff system regarding cereals and cereal
products and changes it to a coherent, simplified set of rules designed to
stimulate efficiency in cereal production and in the industrial use of cereals,
thus creating the basis for an internationally competitive biotechnology industry
in the EEC.
- That the use of straw as a fiber source should be stimulated by supporting
a modernization of the present industrial process to obtain competitiveness
with the wood based industries.
- That the production of agricultural commodities in which the EEC is deficientmaize
for starch, feed protein, vegetable oil, and cellulose fibersshould
be stimulated by quality related premium prices of present commodities and
development of new crops.
- That significant basic research programs should be established in the industrial
manufacture of cereal based products, including genetic engineering of plants
and micro-organisms, purification of cereal components and their processing
and modification into final products.
Clearly, many policy changes have occurred since these primary recommendations
were laid and certainly much research has been undertaken in the cereals area.
Equally, change in world prices and increasing deregulation of markets through
GATT/WTO negotiation have made agricultural crops more economically competitive
as non-food feedstocks than in the past. However, the IENICA project (an Interactive
European Network for Industrial Crops and their Applications) has confirmed
that much of this potential (Table 1) has yet to be exploited.
Table 1. Global non-food products from agriculture. Source: IENICA
||Non-food products (million
Set aside has also played a part and to an extent has formed a de facto support
scheme for some non-food crops. Helpful though that has been, it has to be recognized
that where crops are grown with full area aid, for example, rapeseed for food
then there is a disincentive to grow that same plant for non-food uses. Equally
changes in some EU support schemes have discouraged the development of some
non-food crops, for example flax, linseed, and hemp.
THE IENICA PROJECT
The initial IENICA project ran for 3 years. It was co-ordinated by Central
Science Laboratory in UK and the German partner was Fachagentur Nachwachsende
Rohstoffe, (FNR), Gulzow. The fundamental underlying objective of this project
was to catalyze development of non-food products from plants through technology
transfer; catalyzing contact between different sectors of the industry and characterizing
The IENICA project has indicated that for development of renewables to occur,
a number of key processes need to be put in place.
- Establish systems that integrate the supply, manufacturing, and distribution
activities through supporting infrastructure; this enhances economic viability.
- Improve the understanding of plant metabolism, via functional genomics,
to optimize the design or use for specific value-added processes; in addition
to the use of current inherent components, exploring novel polymer production
- Ensure that the development of new processes with very high efficiency
accompanies secondary processes that use all components as co-products and
therefore eliminate wastes, this provides economic and environmental benefits.
- Cross-check that specific goals and research targets are consistent with
those of non-food market needs and specifications.
- Develop approaches to ensure a consistency in supply and demand; keeping
factors such as price/volume, performance, geographical location, quality,
etc. within defined limits on an annual production basis; developing standards
for these factors.
- Establish formal vertically integrated partnerships where producer and
user of non-food products act in unison.
The IENICA project has concentrated on identifying plants/crops or co-products
with non-food use, markets, and constraints. It recognizes that huge amounts
of research have been funded at the basic and strategic applied levels.
There appears to have been little demand from industry for non-food biorenewables
(excluding energy which is not part of the IENICA project specification). The
causes identified for this are: (1) lack of awareness of opportunities; (2)
lack of financial need or incentive to change; (3) investment in current technologies
and lack of capital to re-tool; (4) lack of clarity in the development of non-food
renewables market in political and environmental sectors; and (5) lack of market
organization and guaranteed supply of primary products.
In essence, there has been much technology push but in many non-food
product sectors, little market pull. The fundamental concepts behind
the IENICA project are to facilitate the correction of that imbalance in a systematic
and sustainable manner through identification of crops, markets, products, and
MARKETS AND OPPORTUNITIES
The EU overview of the IENICA market report has been used as a basis for this
part of this paper. A significant contribution to this report was made by Germany,
through Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe, but because in the practical situation
markets are multinational an EU perspective has been taken.
Actions Needed at EU or European Commission (EC) Level
Six Priority Areas were identified:
- EC regulation is not well focused in terms of non-food crops. There is
a need to develop and promulgate a clear concise long-term strategy for non-food
crops and products. This requires co-ordination and pro-activity between DGs
Agriculture, Environment, Energy, Industry, and Research.
There must be a requirement laid upon EC/EU administration to develop a coherent
strategy for non-food products from plants and act in concert with it when
regulations are revised or proposed. Anomalies in EC regulations should be
removed including: flax and hemp regime and non-food but non-traditional markets;
impact of EINECS (European Inventory of Existing Commercial Chemical Substances)
and ELINCS (European List of Notified Chemical Substances Regulations) on
non-food products; and plant derived crop protection products.
- The needs of industry and the potential of agriculture need to be better
understood and more clearly addressed.
- EC policy makers should consider the total benefits of crop derived non-food
products through standardized life cycle analysis procedures. Benefits should
be positively promoted through the inclusion of such bio-renewables in EC
tender documents for contracts. Support should be considered for the development
of bio-renewable product specifications and labels to educate and identify
- CAP has a market distorting effect in the oilseeds (food vs. non-food)
and fibers (clothing textiles vs. novel uses of fibers) sector. This needs
to be examined and corrected when regimes or CAP are revised and during WTO
- The whole issue of non-food crops and products should form a coherent package
within Framework 6 Programme of EC. That package should be part of the structured
EC strategy on non-food crops and must be focused on industry needs and development
of the rural economy.
- Blairhouse Agreement/EC-US oilseeds agreement. Definitive statements on
the long-term standing and precise meaning of this agreement are needed.
For convenience, the market was segmented into 5 broad generic areas (oils,
fibers, carbohydrates, speciality products, proteins), although it is essential
to recognize that this has involved some generalization. (More details are available
from the European Summary Report of IENICA available on the IENICA website.)
Particular emphasis had been laid on the first 3, because of their impact on
use of large areas of land.
Oils. Overall usage of vegetable oils and animal fats in the non-food
sector of EU-15 is approximately 3 million tonnes (t)/annum. This excludes biodiesel
fuels. Key market sectors are lubricants, paints and surface coatings, surfactants
and oleochemicals. Considerable potential for expansion exists, including import
substitution of both vegetable oils and tallow.
- Bio-lubricants. The potential EU market is approximately 370,000 t/annum
but currently less than 10% of that potential is exploited. There are significant
environmental benefits for the use of bio-lubricants where high environmental
- Bio-printing inks. The EU market is in excess of 120,000 t/annum. Belgium
has made considerable progress in using vegetable based printing inks, but
elsewhere, particularly outside of Scandinavia, Netherlands and Germany, usage
is very small. There are no technical reasons for this lag in uptake.
- Bio-solvents. The EU solvent market is approximately 4 million t/annum
of which 1.9 million t/annum are hydrocarbon solvents. Considerable health,
environmental, and security benefits would accrue from substituting vegetable
derived solvents for current fossil derived materials. At least 12.5% of total
market could be vegetable derived but to date less than 1.5% has been achieved.
- Linoleumthe EC demand for linoleum is likely to rise to 56 million
m2 by 2003. This will generate a 64% increase in linseed oil requirement,
which could be produced in the EU. Total linseed oil usage in the linoleum
market in Europe will therefore be 56,000 t/annum.
- Surfactantsthe EU market is currently in excess of 2 million tonnes/annum
and increasing. By 2005, domestic household use of surfactants alone is likely
to be 1.5 million t/annum. However, expansion of surfactant production from
EU grown bio-renewable sources is limited by the inability of EU to produce
vegetable derived short chain fatty acids, e.g. lauric acid. Alternative feedstocks
for surfactants must therefore be sought from other EU crop plants, since
lauric acid derived from transgenic plants appears uneconomic in cool temperate
- Polymers. The majority of polymers are derived from petroleum but certain
products are based upon, or incorporate vegetable oil-based derivatives. There
appears to be considerable scope for an expansion in the use of vegetable
oils in polymer production. The most widely used polymer is erucamide, derived
from HEAR, used as a slip agent in polythene film.
- Paints and Surface Coatings. Increasing use is being made of bio-solvents
by the paint industry as well as the use of alkyl resins and varnishes based
on vegetable oils.
Fibers. EU industry uses both home grown and imported fibers (e.g.
jute). There would be considerable benefit to industry, in terms of quality
and reliability of supply, if they were able to substitute imported fiber with
home-produced material. In terms of specific sectors within the fibers market,
clothing textiles form the traditional component and novel uses, (e.g. automotive
parts), the new and developing component. The total clothing textiles market
in Western Europe is projected as 7.9 million t for 2001 with a 10% increase
expected by 2006. Of the textiles market, approximately 40% is supplied by natural
fibers, of which wool and cotton are dominant. Undoubtedly, small and perhaps
valuable niche markets exist for hemp, flax, and silk derived textiles. In the
case of the former two crops, progress in development will be enhanced by technological
development, although cost and fashion trends will limit potential. It should
be noted that small amounts of non-traditional short fiber flax are currently
spun with wool. The future of this market requires examination.
The new fibers market sector includes matting based products (e.g. simple
filters, growth media, geo-textiles), which tends to be lower value and composites
(e.g. automobile parts, building composites) which tend to be higher value.
The automotive sector should be considered as a primary market driver for the
short to medium term future with Europe, producing about 18 million cars and
light vans annually. Proven uses amount to 10 kg fiber/vehicle and potential
likely uses in the same vehicles up to 10 kg fiber/vehicle more. Current estimate
of maximum market, based upon existing automobile production, is 350,000 t/year
of fiber, amounting to about 1 million t of primary product.
In insulation products plant fiber is being used to replace glass fiber, giving
health, energy, and environmental benefits.
While the wood-based panel industry, producing particleboard, medium density
fiberboard etc., is based on small roundwood and wood residues, there is some
potential for substitution with annual fibers. However these will have to be
price competitive to obtain a market share.
Paper and pulp provide options for utilization of agricultural wastes (e.g.
straw) or specially produced crops (e.g. reed canary grass, Miscanthus). Market
potential is virtually infinite but costs, processing scale, and market instability
limit progress. Similarly, to reduce costs and allow sustainable economic production,
scientific and technological developments are essential in terms of cellulose
content, impurities, and exploitation of secondary metabolites.
Carbohydrates. Starch markets in EU and elsewhere are well developed
and organized. Estimates of total EU starch market for the year 2000/2001 are
7.3 million t/annum of which 3.7 million t is in the non-food sector, 1.4 million
t in paper and cardboard making, 1.1 million t in plastics and detergents and
1.2 million t in fermentation and other technical uses. Additionally, smaller
markets exist in water purification, cosmetics, toiletries, pharmaceuticals,
paints, and agrochemicals. Several of these latter offer high potential for
added value, but limited tonnage. The development of biodegradable plastics
is currently very limited.
Speciality Products. The speciality products sector offers considerable
potential for bio-renewables, often at high value (e.g. personal care products),
but at relatively low volume. However the market is volatile, reacting rapidly
to supply and demand changes. Specifications are frequently ill defined and
processing/formulation details severely restricted because of commercial pressures.
Market segments include: essential oils; pharmaceuticals; popular health products;
colorants and dyes; perfumes; personal care/beauty products; novel plant protection
products; and intermediates for processing
Essential oils markets worldwide are approximately 45,000 t/year and rising.
However, that estimate includes an uncharacterized tonnage that could not be
produced in EU. Aromatic plants have a world market in excess of 50,000 t/year.
Estimates of medicinal plant markets suggest 70,000 t/year. European collection
of aromatic and medicinal plants amounts to 20,00030,000 t/year. Approximately
200 species, which are native to Europe, are involved. The European herbal supplements
market is valued in excess of €7 billion/annum and demand is rising.
The global dyes market for textiles is in excess of 700,000 t/annum, with
an estimated market value in 2000 of more than €4.5 billion. It seems unlikely
in the extreme that plant derived dyes could supply anything more than a minor
part of this market. However, that minor part could be a valuable niche market.
Protein Crops. The use of protein derivatives from plants has not been
subjected to the breadth of exploitation as other non-food crop market sectors.
Current production of protein isolates and concentrates is 1 million t/year.
Undoubtedly, this tonnage will increase, although currently the timescale for
this is indefinable. The most promising areas for EU produced non-food proteins
use is in packaging and labeling, controlled release of pharmaceuticals or chemicals,
adhesives, and cosmetics. However, the likelihood of competition for markets
between proteins and other non-food products (e.g. starch derivatives) must
be recognized. Key development will probably occur with proteins from plants
as secondary products.
Constraints and Opportunities on Development
Some major generic constraints were identified and reported earlier in this
paper; more specific issues of constraint and opportunity are reported here.
- The requirements of anti-narcotics legislation limits the expansion of
the hemp crop and in some countries (e.g. UK) adds to production costs. Development
of nil THC hemp varieties and rapid diagnostics for THC containing hemp should
be progressed since demand for hemp feedstocks is well established.
- The European List of Notifiable Chemical Substances Regulations (ELINCS),
and European Inventory of Existing Commercial Chemical Substances Regulations
(EINECS) both apply to plant products. These are considered by industry to
be expensive and constraining (e.g. in high viscosity esters) and their role
and applicability to plant products should be reviewed.
- Legislation on re-use of lubricants could offer good opportunities to expand
vegetable oil use. Similarly, regulations on bio-lubricants for sensitive
areas would be beneficial to the environment and should be considered EU-wide.
- Demands for enhanced biodiversity are being progressed. The role of non-food
crops, especially of novel species, should be considered in this context.
- The regulation of plant protection and plant health products appears to
be anomalous for plant derived materials: whole plants are exempt but plant
components are not. These regulations should be reviewed and, if appropriate
from a risk viewpoint, revised.
- The legislation relating to all aspects of non-food crops or products should
be unified across EU, since trade in these products is trans-national.
- An EU series of standards regulating description and quality of bio-renewable
materials and products should be developed in partnership with industry. It
should be based upon environmental benefits. Such a scheme should be built
on the principles of the Blue Angel or White Swan Eco-marks.
- European Union regulation on wastes and waste disposal, including packaging
should include aspects of bio-renewables that are beneficial to the environment.
Technical and Scientific.
- There is a generic need to identify and characterize genotypes and cultivars
with particular uses in provision of bio-renewable produce. This will not
be easy in sectors like that of essential oils, where chemotaxonomy forms
the only realistic taxonomic base. These characteristics should be available
on websites like IENICA. Particular emphasis should be laid upon market pull.
- Industry and agriculture need to be linked in a proactive manner to facilitate
the production of standards and specifications against which plant produce
can be measured and assessed. Short, interactive vertically integrated production
chain needs to be stimulated.
- Whilst many extraction and purification techniques for plant products are
well proven, there is a need to undertake continued development and refinement
in order to keep pace with market needs and to identify higher value products.
Equally, there is a pressing need to indulge in lateral thinking to develop
novel extraction and purification procedures which also allow the exploitation
of desirable secondary metabolites.
- Agronomic and physiological studies need to be linked to sustainable economic
production and end products quality parameters. These studies should include
understanding of linkages with primary and secondary plant metabolites; modeling
approaches should be included since they inter-relate existing research results
and highlight areas of poor knowledge. These studies are particularly important
for herbs and plants producing essential oils where much dubious data exists
in the literature.
- Processing and extraction procedures which are environmentally benign should
be considered as high priority and special effort put into their development,
validation, and economic demonstration.
- Studies should be instigated to assess the extent to which initial processing
of primary product can be undertaken in the production locality. This could
benefit rural employment whilst reducing total production and transport costs.
- The role of transgenic technologies in providing opportunities for novel
and especially sophisticated molecules is important. Assessments need to be
made of real market opportunities, since not all are economic, (e.g. lauric
acid from rapeseed).
Environmental Issues. Comparative life cycle analysis studies of major
environmental polluters (e.g. NOx, CO2) should be undertaken
and the relative positions of fossil derived and bio-renewable feedstocks confirmed.
Priority should be given to the promotion of bio-renewable production where
the benefits of the bio-renewable are proven (e.g. rape oil vs. phthalates).
Within this requirement standardization of LCA procedures is essential.
- The key issues in successful introduction of bio-renewables are unit cost
and comparative performance. These aspects need to be assessed and defined
for specific uses of oils, fibers, carbohydrates, protein, and speciality
products. A total and real cost appraisal is essential for long-term sustainability.
- Industry must be given incentives to change its practices where bio-renewables
are shown to have overall benefits.
- Efforts must be made to ensure exploitation of all plant components as
primary and co-products. This would enhance economic and environmental sustainability.
This means that crops like flax and linseed should be considered as bi-functional,
requiring a change in EC perspectives.
- New technologies often have a degree of uncertainty in their success. EC
should continue to support and promote demonstration projects but these must
be linked to realistically appraised market potential.
- It is anticipated that all bio-renewable non-food products will undergo
continuous improvement, particularly in terms of market orientation and reduction
in true unit cost. This should be encouraged.
- Logistical studies, including transport modeling, should be instigated
to reduce cost of collection, packaging, and transport of bulk primary products
like plant fibers in particular.
- Structured contract systems and arrangements between producers, processors,
and end users of bio-renewables are essential for success. EC should actively
promote these relationships and develop model structures.
- The potential for import substitution with home grown bio-renewables in
EU should be assessed. This could lead to considerable practical and economic
benefits for agriculture, rural economy, and industry in EU-15.
- Bio-renewable products are generally viewed as desirable, environmentally
beneficial, and healthy. Active management of this image must be undertaken
to maintain and build upon it where bio-renewables have economic and sustainable
markets. Presumably this is an EC DG Environment role?
- It must be noted that bio-renewables could be produced by traditional or
organic methods. Both technologies have market places but efforts must be
made to maintain and confirm identity of produce from each.
- Those in EU-15 who are issuing tenders for contracts should be obliged
to include specifications for inclusion of bio-renewables where performance
and true cost have been shown to be superior to existing materials. Environmental
benefits should be included in true cost assessment.
- The potential for competition between bio-renewables should be recognized.
Such competition could occur in a number of sectors, e.g. plastics, adhesives,
Whilst considerable data on crop species and their metabolites existed from
both national and European Commission funded studies little collated or critical
evidence existed on extract of markets or market specifications for non food
crops in European Union. The objective of the IENICA project was to correct
the deficiency through a series of reports and technology transfer events supported
by a website (www.csl.gov.uk/ienica). Whilst co-ordination of the project was
undertaken in UK, 14 EU member states were assessed by their national representatives
in the IENICA project then individual reports collated centrally and presented
on the website. Approaches were regulated through a structure and protocol.
Significant market opportunities for biorenewables were identified in the oils,
fibers, carbohydrates, and speciality product sector although degree of exploitation
was variable between EU member states. Constraints were also identified and
reported. Surprisingly it was concluded that industry was not necessarily keen
to take up new products, and sometimes they were even unaware of the opportunities
available to them.
Without doubt scientific and technological developments have developed so
as to permit the exploitation of biorenewable products. Some key areas are still
incomplete. They include (1) political and administrative co-ordination of effort;
(2) awareness of opportunities in all sectors of industry; (3) assessment of
environmental benefits; and (4) focused technology transfer
- Rexen, F. and L. Munch. 1984. Cereal crops for industrial use in Europe.
EU Commission EUR 9617 EN.
- IENICA website: www.csl.gov.uk/ienic