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Farmers ready for R2.5bn biofuels project

Apr 22 2014 10:50
Bloemfontein - Various organisations in the Free State have welcomed the announcement made by the department of energy that the final biofuels position paper will be published in May 2014.


The African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) said it is ready and waiting to meaningfully participate in the first phase of the biofuels industry programme.

As the mandated representative of more than 3 000 emerging and established black farmers, Afasa has been eagerly anticipating the conclusion of the outstanding biofuels regulatory framework.

“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," said Afasa's Free State president Pitso Sekhoto.

"Mabele Fuels has been at an advanced stage of readiness for some time now to construct the country’s largest refinery (158 million litres per year) for the production of fuel grade bio-ethanol from grain sorghum at a cost of R2.5bn."

Afasa's engagements and consultations with them to participate in their venture through the supply of feedstock and as direct beneficiaries through its inclusion in an emerging farmers trust, is equally well advanced.

"We are, therefore, sitting on the brink of a historical moment in agricultural development, rural transformation and energy security in South Africa, wherein farmers are at the centre,” said Sekhoto.

Afasa says that at the current proposed level of a 2% blend of bioethanol with petrol, 25 000 jobs can 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," said Sekhoto.

"Grain sorghum farmers in South Africa currently face limited market access for their produce. Unlocking the biofuels industry provides a captive domestic source market to tap into and which can further stimulate demand."

Additionally, the development of biofuels manufacturing facilities such as those of Mabele Fuels in Bothaville, will necessitate billions of rands worth of investment into rural economies."

Maize chamber

The Maize Capital Chamber of Commerce in Bothaville also expressed its delight at the announcement by the Department of Energy about the final biofuels position paper.


The chamber has been a strong supporter for further growing the province’s agricultural sector, including the Mabele Fuels project.


It said that this includes the sector’s contribution to job creation, rural development, agri-business enterprises development and transformation of the agricultural sector through the participation of new and emerging black farmers.

“The announcement by the Department of Energy is good news for our longstanding expectations to unlock the Free State’ biofuels industry and the participation of local farmers, downstream and support businesses therein," said the hamber’s CEO Hettienne Von Abo-Moolman.

"We view the investment by companies such as Mabele Fuels and their investors as being central to achieving this, as it demonstrates confidence in the region as a business and investment destination.”

Development

The Free State Development Corporation (FDC) has also expressed its support and encouragement for the announcement by the Department of Energy about the project.
Agriculture has always been considered to be the main sector for the province’s economy and the FDC has supported the idea of the province becoming a leader in biofuels production.

“The announcement by the Department of Energy provides much needed certainty and clarity on the timing for kick starting the nascent biofuels industry," said FDC CEO Ikhraam Osman.

"We are encouraged that companies such as Mabele Fuels and their investors will be readying themselves to initiate their project implementation plans."

He said the project will represent a major vote of confidence in the province as an agricultural business and investment destination, as well as contributing to other national strategic imperatives like energy security and diversification, industrial development, agricultural and rural development.

"The project is an example of excellence in public-private collaboration, to create sizable emerging black businesses and black farmers," he said.

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free state  |  agribusiness  |  biofuels  |  agriculture

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