The use of maize will be excluded in the production of biofuels, the Department of Minerals and Energy confirmed on Thursday with the release of its final biofuels industrial strategy.
Its exclusion comes amid concerns over food security and fears of price increases, Minister Buyelwa Sonjica explained at a briefing at the Union Buildings, Pretoria.
Sonjica said that bioethanol would be produced from sugar cane and sugar beet, and biodiesel would use soya beans, canola and sunflower as feedstock.
Frost & Sullivan research analyst Cornelis van der Waal previously told Engineering News Online that sugar cane was too “thirsty” a crop to be a viable option for the country’s water-scarce environment.
Sonjica said that in taking the decision to exclude maize and come up with other options, an interminesterial committee and a task team had been formed and all the relevant agricultural industry players had been consulted.
She added that concerns over the crops to be used had caused the delay in approving the strategy.
Another key point of the strategy is the lowering of the biofuels production target from 4,5%, as proposed in the draft, to 2%. Sonjica commented that the department “agonised over bringing down the 4,5% yield” and conceded that the target was not very ambitious. The motivation for the drop in target was again concerns over food security.
This revised target was attributed to “agricultural concerns”, however, the Minister failed to clarify these concerns further than that of food security issues.
The biofuels industry development would be done in phases, with the first phase from 2008 to 2013. Sonjica said that after this period, which she described as a “pilot stage”, biofuels production and its impact on agriculture would be assessed and evaluated and targets would then be reviewed.
The blending target for biofuels is 8% bioethanol and 2% biodiesel.
With the revised strategy, the fuel levy exemption for biodiesel would increase from the current 40% to 50% and bioethanol would maintain its 100% exemption.