GrainSA wants open discussion on biofuels policy

7th May 2008 By: Christy van der Merwe

South African grain producers association GrainSA on Wednesday held a multi-stakeholder forum to discuss the future prospects for feedstock production in the first and second economy of South Africa.

Although the forum was not a decision-making one, it hoped to deliberate and bring new information on issues concerning the exclusion of maize a feedstock for biofuels.

"From producer side, we don't want to jeopardise food security in South Africa, and we see the biofuels industry as a way of uncapping the market. We want to produce more, in a more sustainable way, at a better price. To enable the primary producers to produce at the optimal level, and that is why we engage with the other role players and the people who can influence policy. We want this to be an open discussion," indicated GrainSA chairperson Neels Ferreira.

GrainSA would ultimately hope to see maize included as a feedstock for biofuels in the South African biofuels strategy, although it did not anticipate any immediate change in the strategy. "When the time is right we will be empowered enough and we will take all the new information to the table, knowing that there are other parties that currently differ from us, but we respect those differences," GrainSA GM Kobus Laubscher said.

"If we are to influence government and policymakers differently, what guarantees will we have to put in place so that we ensure that as the industry grows with the jobs being created, that the food is on the table and people can be able to afford it and access it?" was the question posed by Cosatu deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali.

The South African Cabinet released the biofuels strategy for the country in November 2007, which excluded the use of maize as a feedstock. The issue of food security was given as the reason for this, although associations such as GrainSA have indicated that the use of maize as a feedstock for biofuels would in fact ‘uncap' the market, and positively enhance food security.