The African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) on Tuesday said it welcomed the announcement made by the Department of Energy that the final biofuels position paper would be published next month, stating that it was ready to meaningfully participate in the first phase of the biofuels industry programme.
Afasa pointed out that the biofuels policy framework would determine the types of supply agreements its members – as the providers of feedstocks allowed under the regulatory framework – would have to enter into with biofuels manufacturers.
“The imminent finalisation of the biofuels position paper affords us the opportunity in the Free State to begin quantifying and concluding our feedstock supply agreements with pioneering biofuels manufacturers and investors such as Mabele Fuels,” Afasa Free State president Pitso Sekhoto said.
He noted that Mabele Fuels had been at an advanced stage of readiness to construct the country’s largest refinery for the production of fuel-grade bioethanol from grain sorghum for some time.
The R2.5-billion Mabele Fuels facility, in Bothaville, was expected to produce 158-million litres of fuel a year.
“Our engagements and consultations with them to participate in their venture, through the supply of feedstock and as direct beneficiaries through our inclusion in an emerging farmers trust, is well advanced.
“We are, therefore, on the brink of a historical moment in agricultural development, rural transformation and energy security in South Africa, wherein farmers are at the centre,” Sekhoto said.
Meanwhile, Afasa pointed out that, at the current proposed blend of 2% bioethanol with 98% petrol, 25 000 jobs could be created in the agricultural sector alone.
“The economics and catalytic impact on transforming South Africa's agricultural sector, rural development and the fortunes of farmers through the impact of grain sorghum alone is staggering,” Sekhoto pointed out.
He added that grain sorghum farmers in South Africa currently faced limited market access for their produce.
“Unlocking the biofuels industry provides a captive domestic-source market to tap into, which can further stimulate demand. Additionally, the development of biofuels manufacturing facilities such as those of Mabele Fuels, will necessitate the investment of billions of rands into rural economies,” Sekhoto stated.
Afasa had long been anticipating the conclusion of a major biofuels project to position the Free State as the centre for biofuels production and it would, therefore, continue to work with the Free State provincial government, Mabele Fuels and other interested and affected parties towards the Mabele Fuels project’s implementation.