A new report commissioned by the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) and compiled by nova Institute draws a picture of a bioeconomy in Europe marked by sturdy growth over the past few years.
As this report makes clear, the bioeconomy comprises those parts of the economy that use renewable biological resources from land and sea – such as crops, forests, fish, animals and micro-organisms – to produce food, materials and bioenergy. In this report, Eurostat was used as the main source of data for all sectors analysed.
The analysis of the 2017 Eurostat data shows that a total turnover for the European bioeconomy, including food and beverages and the primary sectors of agriculture and forestry, came to just over €2.4 trillion in the EU-28: an increase of 25% since 2008. Roughly half is accounted for by the food and beverage sector, some 30% is attributable to the bio-based industries, such as bio-based chemicals and plastics, pharmaceuticals, paper and paper products, forest-based industries, textiles, biofuels and bioenergy. The remaining 20% is generated by the primary sectors – agriculture and forestry.
And while often underrated, the bio-based industries were found to have contributed some €750 billion to the European economy in 2017; an increase of €50 billion (+>7%) compared to 2016.
The 2017 data also reveal that the European bioeconomy employed 18.5 million people in total which shows a minor decrease from the 18.6 million people in 2016 – mainly through efficiency increases in production.
In the bio-based chemical and plastics industry alone, turnover amounted to around 60 billion Euro and generated over 180.000 jobs, while the bio-based share of the chemical industry in the EU-28 increased from about 5% in 2008 to 8% in 2017.
Clear differences were seen between groups of Member States. The Eastern European countries Poland, Romania and Bulgaria look to be stronger in lower value-adding sectors of the bio-based economy that generate a lot of employment. By contrast, the countries of western and northern Europe generate a far higher turnover compared to the amount of employment generated. The countries with the highest ratio between turnover and employment are Finland, Belgium and Sweden. primary biomass production, mainly agriculture plus the forestry and fishery sectors generate a lot of employment (55%) but low turnover (20%).
In 2017, a study conducted by nova-Institute on behalf of the Bio-based Industries Consortium showed for the first time which macroeconomic effects are generated by these activities, e.g. turnover and employment for the years 2008 and 2013. This new version of the report is available which spans the whole period from 2008 to 2017.
The reports does note at the end that, why the prospects look bright, the impact of external influences on the bioeconomy post 2019, are unclear. COVID-19 has taken and is still taking a signficant toll on the economy in general, and the bioeconomy is not likely to escape unscathed. On the other hand, the European Green Deal presented ate last year will hopefully have significant positive impact on the European bioeconomy. This will become apparent in the data in the years following its launch.