Minimum Acreage for a Profitable Bamboo Plantation
What is the minimium area to at least have a profit for bamboo, especially if you only grow for poles? When can you expect income for pole production, in a small scale level? Yes, there is money in bamboo, but it is the flooring and other stuff already, which for sure small farmers can't afford to set up such facilities. So, again what is the minimum area? Thanks. This site is very helpful.
Stephane from Guadua Bamboo replied:
Any size plantation can be profitable whether it is 1 ha or 10,000 hectares. The question you should ask is: How are you planning to sell the bamboo?
Will you (or a partner) be making value added products from the bamboo and what kind of product? Or will you be growing bamboo to target a specific market? The end use of the crop plays a crucial role. For the energy or biomass industry you would need large scale cultivation, but this is not the case for niche products such as handicrafts or furniture. Maybe there is a local need for a certain bamboo product such as fencing poles or props for tomato growers.
Whether you grow on a small or a large scale, there will always be a market for bamboo. The key is to find out who needs what (poles, pulp, chips, etc.) and at what quantity. Once you have pinpoint the potential market and what price they would pay for the product, you'll have to calculate operation and transportation costs to determine your potential profit.
Always keep in mind the importance of location. Growing bamboo in remote areas with no road access and no available labor force could make your entire business plan go bust. You will also need to determine which species to grow. This again, depends on the end use for the bamboo and climate conditions of the area.
As you can see, it takes much more research and study before you can start planting bamboo for profit. So if I may give one advice, do not pursue bamboo just because of the potential financial rewards. As with any business, easy money doesn't exist!
Let's assume a revenue of $1 per linear foot of pole, selling untreated poles directly to a buyer (there's the key: find a buyer). There are 43500 sq ft in an acre. Assume an average total of one linear foot of pole per square foot of land. At $1/linft, that's $43k/year. Let's assume $0.10/linear-foot, and 4 square feet per linear foot: that's $1k in revenue.
So there you have it: upper and lower bounds. You can imagine that for ever 4 square feet, a 4-year culm will produce a 20 foot cane. Harvesting every 4 square foot patch on a 4-year rotation would mean 2700 canes harvested per year. If those canes are 20' long and sell for $0.10/foot, then you've got 20 * .1 * 2700 = $5400/acre/year, not even trying very hard! Just wait twenty years till you've got an acre of 60' tall, 6" diameter moso!
The simplest added-value projects in the US would be selling potted culms ($5-$30/gal plant) or making woven mats or privacy/garden screens ($1-$5/sqft). Other ideas: Selling edible bamboo shoots to a local co-op / health food store, raising a pig or ducks in the understory, or making bamboo bike frames ($100-$2k/frame) and trailers. Looks like you need reliable buyers, and multiple products, to make more than a thousand dollars per year.
Stephane from Guadua Bamboo replied:
Indeed diversification is good tactics to maximize the revenue for a bamboo plantation. Using different parts of the culms for both low and high-end markets is common practice (keep in mind that every part of the bamboo culm can be utilized).
Culms could be used for light and temporary construction kits, such as pergolas or wedding arbors. Even the leaves could be used or sold as animal fodder while branches and culm tips could be chipped into mulch.
So many uses, so many opportunities with bamboo,...become passionate and you'll surely find your niche.