SA body against use of maize for biofuels

South Africa should not review its biofuels policy to include maize as this would fuel food prices hikes, an industry body on biofuels said on Friday.

The South African government unveiled blending ratios for biofuels three years ago but said maize, the country’s staple food, could not be used in the production of biofuels in order to ensure food security and keep a lid on high prices.

The agriculture minister, however, said last week that because of the surplus maize in the country, government should review its biofuels policy to include the grain.

“The use of maize as feedstock for agrofuels has contributed to massive hikes in the price of food on the global market. The 2008 global food crisis was largely attributable to the diversion of maize in the US to ethanol production,” the African Centre for Biosafety said in a statement.

It said the proposed policy change was “short-sighted”.

“We need real solutions to energy and food security. It’s time our government began to support environmentally sound agricultural practices for local consumption rather than chemical intensive mono-crops destined for global markets,” it said.

Experts say biofuels offer the biggest and most secure market for agriculture in Southern Africa and could help ease the region’s electricity woes in the future.

South Africa plans to generate 15% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, but delays by the government in finalising its biofuels policy have stalled investment and the growth of the biofuels sector.

South African farmers are expected to harvest about 13,034-million tonnes of maize from the 2009/2010 season, their largest maize crop since the record 14,42-million tonnes reaped in the 1981/82 season.

South Africans consume between 8-9 million tonnes of the staple each year. – Reuters

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