News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Tuesday March 26th 2019

NGOs ‘extremely concerned’ at maize for bio fuels lobby

While the DA and GrainSA lobby for lifting the ban on surplus maize to be sold on the international market for bio fuel production, Non Government Organisations are concerned over the country’s food security.A number of organisations have raised their voices following Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Petersson’s recent announcement that South Africa’s bio fuels strategy should be revised to include the exportation of maize.

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) is “deeply concerned” by the Minister’s statement as surpluses should be used to alleviate the plight of South Africans living below the bread line rather than serving the interests of big Agri-business.

The Democratic Alliance and Grain SA have been lobbying for the sale of maize surpluses – in the region of three million tons this year – to be exported for bio fuel production.

But ACB director Mariam Mayet said the organization “notes with extreme concern the vocal lobbying taking place by industry and the Portfolio Committee on Energy to have maize included as a bio fuel feedstock”.

This would amount to “mortgaging the country’s future on the mass production of global commodities that can be bought and sold at the whim of financial speculators”, said Mayet.

ACB researcher Haidee Swanby said the use of maize for bio fuel 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 proposed policy shift is extremely short sighted and reactive; we need real solutions to energy and food security,” said Swanby.

“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.”

Biowatch South Africa director Rose Williams said the decision to exclude maize from the bio fuels strategy was a good one and should not be changed.

“There is also no guarantee that there will be a surplus in future years,” said Williams.

She added that producing ethanol from maize was also one of the least efficient and most wasteful sources of liquid fuel.

Williams said we need to question who is asking for the change.

She said the interest of the small-scale farmers, nor that of food security, was being looked after. Rather, lifting the ban on maize exports for bio fuel production was in the interestes of large-scale commercial agri-business and multinational seed companies.

On Tuesday last week the DA shadow deputy minister of Energy David Ross and GrainSA made proposals to the Department of Energy to reassure government that food security would not be threatened by lifting the ban on maize exports for bio fuel.

GrainSA chairperson Neels Ferreira said supplying maize for bio fuel would not impact food security as only 31 percent of annual maize production was for human consumption.

According to GrainSA, maize exports are declining due to improved production in other countries. Exports dropped from 2 162 million tonnes ton 2008/2009 to 1 670 million tonnes in 2009/2010, with a projected 1 390 million tonnes to be exported in the current season. – Yugendree Naidoo, West Cape News

Tags: bio fuels, DA, democratic alliance, Environment, ethanol, food, food security, maize, ngos

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