Strategic assessment of the bioplastics market in Brazil and Mexico

Both Brazil and Mexico are nascent markets for Bioplastics, currently under pilot scales in a several companies, making inroads into segments such as food packaging and agriculture films. As per Frost & Sullivan's new report, large production scales in Brazil are expected to give a new shape to this market in the region. Competitive production scales and an increasing demand will be crucial to make bioplastics a growing and profitable market in the region. Frost & Sullivan expects that both bio-based and petrochemical plastics will coexist in the market. In the short to medium term, Bioplastics are not considered a threat to petrochemicals, since its volumes will correspond to less than 5% of the total plastics demand. Economic factors are expected to have the highest impact in the bioplastics market in Brazil and Mexico in the next five years. Competitive production scales and an increasing demand will be crucial to make bioplastics a growing and profitable market in the region. Legislation and government incentives are also considered important in this stage of the industry, leveraging small local companies. Environment and technical aspects are likely to become stronger as customer become more aware about the products benefits and bioplastics are increasingly seen as cost-effective products by end users. Brazil leads the world production of sugarcane, based on a history of government incentives and a remarkable low production cost and high productivity. The State of So Paulo is at the top of national ranking. Besides, Brazil has large areas for sugarcane planting and these areas can be expanded to produced ethanol from sugarcane without compromising on food production. Several initiatives have been taken to increase the incipient production of ethanol in Mexico. However, competing with the United States, the world's number one corn producer, and Brazil, a leader in sugar-based ethanol, is likely to be a challenge for Mexico, where sugarcane is expensive to produce. For bioplastics production, sugarcane is transformed into sugar, and it can be processed by bacteria which create the biodegradable plastic through the polymer formulation. Additionally, sugarcane can be converted into ethanol, that can be a raw material for the ethylene used in the PE production. Brazil and Mexico are ranked third and fourth in the world in terms of corn production. However, Mexico needs to import corn because the local food diet is based on corn. For bioplastics production, first the endosperm has to be separated from the gluten and fiber. Then the producers add enzymes to the endosperm, which converts the endosperm in a simple sugar called glucose. After that, bacterial cultures are added that cause the sugar to ferment lactic acid and polymers. In addition, ethanol can be obtained from corn, generating raw materials for bioplastics. Brazil is among the top ten producers of rice. Several varieties of rice are grown here, varying according to the composition. The arboreal rice contains a high level of starch, which makes it suitable for the production of bioplastics. However, being priced higher, rice in Brazil or Mexico does not generate as much competitiveness as sugarcane does.
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