Bamboo is a versatile plant that has many uses. These range from its use in construction to its use in the manufacturing of fabrics amongst many others. Such a species of plant can present a host of commercial opportunities not just for growing but also for manufacturing and production. Unlike timber, bamboo is a self-regenerating plant. New shoots replace the old, which is extremely advantageous for growers as bamboo replenishes itself by regenerating the bamboo shaft known as the culm. This means harvests do not require the plant to be felled or completely removed. Further, it facilitates regular production from the same plant, removing the need for continuous planting and felling, as well as increasing the frequency at which yields can be generated, an aspect that is very important for a grower’s cash flow.
The Global Demand
The Ministry of Agriculture in India predicts that the global market for bamboo will reach $20 billion by 2015. The useable features of bamboo are in demand throughout the world. Over 1 billion people live in houses made of bamboo. In India alone 2.2 million tonnes of bamboo is used for paper annually. The demand also extends into the renewable energy sector, where bamboo is used as a replacement for traditional energy sources such as oil and gas. In terms of supply, Asia is by far the largest producer of bamboo products whilst China is the biggest exporter. At present the market share of bamboo products is marginal compared to wood products, nevertheless it is annually increasing. Most bamboo harvested for commercial use is from naturally growing stands, however in recent years, more attention has been given to bamboo plantations.
In parts of Thailand, growers use the term “Golden Bamboo” when talking about its value as a commodity. Bamboo lends itself to many uses including supplying domestic and international food demand, and global timber markets. The plant has a greater tensile strength than steel and is widely used across Asia in the construction industry. Scaffolding and structural support is a major application whilst over a billion people already live in houses made of bamboo. Bamboo also produces the highest quality and hardest wearing timber flooring now used worldwide by major retailers, such as B&Q in the UK. As well as being used in textiles, clothing production, cosmetics and medicines, bamboo is also valued as a food source and is a staple ingredient in Asian diets and cuisine. The shoots can contain up to 18 amino acids, is low in carbohydrates, crude fat and crude fibre.