The potential of bamboo in agribusiness has expanded. This is primarily due to advances in the engineered bamboo technology in conjunction with the worldwide concern to mitigate global warming.
The bamboo plant is no longer a poor man’s timber. Traditionally used for household convenience including source of low-cost materials for house construction, tools, vegetable and ornamentation, it has now established its commercial value as a timber substitute and for a multiple number of uses as an engineered product.
Engineered bamboo or e-bamboo is the mechanical and chemical manipulation of the bamboo pole to produce products which serve as substitute for wood. The engineered products include planks, tiles, balusters, mats, veneer, plywood and boards.
Finished products using 100 percent engineered bamboo include doors, windows, flooring, trusses, beams, chairs, desks, tables and furniture.
In Mexico City, architect Simon Velez built the 55,200-square-foot Nomadic Museum using bamboo which is also referred to as “vegetal steel”. The building occupied half of the Zocalo, Latin America’s largest plaza. He built more structures around the world. (Associated Press, 2008). The press release also says that there are a few commercial bamboo farms to meet the growing demand.
According to Van Der Lugt and Lobovikov (2008), the current value of the international bamboo trade is probably between US$1.5 to $3 billion with China as the main supplier, followed by India. The European Union (EU) and USA are the largest importers, accounting for up to 80% of the total bamboo imports. They noted that besides flooring, markets for other engineered bamboo products such as veneer, panels and boards are growing.
The stable worlwide demand for wood and the increasing interest in sustainably produced timber further boost the potential market for industrial bamboo products. Among many western consumers, bamboo is an inherently sustainable resource. Thus industrial bamboo is seen to compete for hardwood in the twenty-first century.
However, the present supply from natural stands is limited. This needs to be increased manyfold by growing bamboo in available land.
According to Einav (2009), UNIDO has helped India “rediscover” bamboo. India’s current demand for bamboo is an estimated 27 million tons. But only 50 percent of that demand can be met because of lack of facilities for value addition and transportation.
Worlwide trends on supply and demand, therefore, clearly strengthens the feasibility of growing bamboo in commercial scale.
On May 14, 2010, Executive Order No. 879 was issued by the president of the Philippines. It created the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council and directed the use of bamboo for at least 25 percent of the desk and other furniture requirements of public elementary and secondary schools. It also directed the prioritization in the use of bamboo in furniture, fixtures and other construction requirements of government facilities.
Moreover, said Order rationalized, among others, that “the Philippines has committed to reforest at least 500,000 hectares with bamboo as part of the 1 million hectares of designated areas as its contribution to the ASEAN commitment of 20 million hectares of new forest by 2020 as part of its initiatives to improve the environment”.
This pronouncement indicates that growing bamboo is an international initiative designed to mitigate adverse climatic changes and for ecological enhancement. The statistics also indicate the feasibility of establishing plant nurseries.
Associated Press. 2008. Boom in bamboo buildings has green benefits. Retrieved September 3, 2010 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22934387/.
Einav, T. 2009. Bamboo: an untapped and amazing result. Retrieved September 3, 2010 from http://www.unido.org/index.php?id=1000276.
Rural Micro Enterprise Promotion Program (RuMEPP). 2010. Engineered Bamboo: The Industry, Technology & Other Information. Department of Trade and Industry, Philippines. 74 p. (booklet).
Van Der Lugt, P. and M. Lobovikov. 2008. Markets for bamboo products in the West. Retrieved September 3, 2010 from http://www.bambooteam.com/pablo/200801%20BFT%20published%20article.pdf.
(Ben G. Bareja, 2010)