The current debates in the European Union on biofuel policy continue to generate rumor and speculation, causing uncertainty for biodiesel and vegetable oil companies. Amid arguments about biodiesel's economic and environmental impact, Netherland-based Rabobank announced it believes the likely policy result will be a higher than expected cap on first-generation biofuels in the EU transport fuel mix. A cap of around 7 percent on first-generation biofuels would mean an increase in demand for biodiesel from current consumption levels, and consequently increased vegetable oil demand.
There is also the possibility of a 5 percent cap being implemented, leading to a minimal increase in demand for vegetable oils. In both scenarios, Rabobank expects total biodiesel consumption in the EU will fall short of the original target for 10 percent of transport energy to come from renewable sources by 2020.
Rabobank analyst Paul Bosch commented, "Despite tensions, the union between the biodiesel industry and vegetable oil players is about to enter a new phase, with new regulations, new growth outlook and consolidation of supply chains by investors, which will bring opportunities for those companies able to make the relationship work to their advantage."
The implementation of new biofuel policies, along with pressure on biofuel and vegetable oil companies in recent years, will require companies to adapt their strategies. Rabobank expects three major developments to take place:
- Increasing control over the supply chain: Taking into consideration the possible changes in biofuel policy, supply chain integration has been a key advantage for EU biodiesel producers but will become even more important to increase efficiency, sourcing options and margins. Winning strategies will include further strategic integration with crushing, being active in trade and proximity to logistical infrastructure.
- Entering into adjacent industries and new business segments to enhance margins: Examples include capturing the premiums associated with second generation biodiesel or hydrogenated vegetable oil.
- Strategic partnerships that leverage on long-term trends: On the vegetable oil supple side, Rabobank expects price advantage will see additional trade flows of palm oil and this can lead to pure trade opportunities or to more structural alliances. These strategic partnerships can be initiated by both sides: palm oil players in South East Asia and biodiesel producers in Europe.