The increasing importance of plastics in the area of agriculture and horticulture has been highlighted in a new in-depth report on the Agricultural films market in Europe by Applied Market Information Ltd. (AMI. This first of its kind report details the EUR 2 billion agricultural films market which accounts for over half a million tonn of polymer-based films every year. Over the past 60 years, agricultural output and productivity has significantly increased and plastic agricultural film for silage, mulch and greenhouse applications has made a substantial contribution to this development. The use of plastic films has been notable in the horticultural industry, as well as the beef and dairy sector, contributing to continuously increasing yields. Plastic films have also enabled the extension of cultivation in terms of the growing season and the location for a variety of plants through the use of protective mulch and greenhouse films. For players in the market the business is a challenging one with many conflicting trends. On the one hand, population growth and rising per capita calorie intake demands greater food production; on the other, the amount of farmland and number of farms is declining. While plastic films can undoubtedly contribute to improved efficiency and output, growing concerns about film waste and disposal is leading to growing interest in the use of biodegradable materials. Reductions in dairy herds may lead to a decline in silage films in one area; growth in biomass crops may create opportunities in another. Climate change may extend the opportunity for plastic greenhouses further north, while at the same time existing users will want more durable, longer lasting films to cut costs. Currently the overall impact of these various trends is a market which in volume terms is showing very little growth but which will still present opportunities for film producers to develop better performing films in areas such as barrier performance, thermal, visual and photo-selective properties. The market is mainly in the Mediterranean region with Spain and Italy taking the lead particularly in consumption of greenhouse and mulch films. In the long term, however, demand for agricultural films is expected to grow more strongly in countries in Northern Europe where climate change will contribute to more favourable conditions for agriculture and ongoing push for higher yields will drive demand for agricultural films.
Silage film is the largest segment of the market accounting for almost a half of the European market, split fairly evenly between clamp silage and stretch silage with a small share accounted for by silo bags/tubes. Consumption of greenhouse film represents around 30% of the market consisting of film for classic greenhouse structures, macro tunnels/walking tunnels and low tunnels and floating/direct covers. Mulch film represents the remaining 25% of the agricultural film demand in Europe and is expected to show a small overall decline mainly due to replacement by biodegradable types and where feasible further downgauging. The ten largest agricultural film producers account for more than a half of the films produced in Europe. While the Mediterranean producers, Armando Alvarez, Agriplast, Eiffel and Plastika Kritis account for the majority of the greenhouse film output, the Nordic and north-west European producers such as Trioplast, Rani Plast, BPI, RKW and Hyplast produce primarily silage film and to a lesser extent mulch film.