Rising demand for woodfuel worldwide, including in the UK, is helping to increase the number of foreign-owned plantations in developing countries, at the cost of food security, according to a new report from the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED).

However, at the same time, the amount of waste wood being exported from the UK to the continent for use as fuel is expanding “very rapidlyand could account for up to 500,000 tonnes of material by the end of the year, according to Toby Beadle, technical advisor for the Wood Recyclers’ Association.

Projected demand for wood chips and pellets in the UK is likely to exceed – by five or six times – the indigenous supply of ten million tonnes a year. The UK, along with Sweden and the Netherlands, is already importing more. It currently imports 40 million tonnes a year and this is expected to rise to 50 million tonnes shortly.

This trend is fed on the one hand by aggressive marketing from some companies in some developing countries, such as the Brazilian Association Industry, which is busy promoting cheap sources of industrial biomass fuel energy, and wood chips, alongside briquette sugar cane agropellets, which can turn waste from Brazilian sugar cane production into pellets that can be burned in coal-fired and thermal plants.