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Maize a critical part of bio-fuels mix

Maize a critical part of bio-fuels mix

Omnia, the diversified, specialist chemical services company providing customised solutions in the chemicals, mining and agriculture markets, today added its voice to those calling for a re-examination of Cabinet’s recent decision on maize use in South Africa.

The company expressed disappointment at Government’s position on maize as a feedstock for bio-energy. There is a strong global consensus around the use of maize for bio-fuels, and an urgent need for local and international solutions in the continuous quest for sustainable development.

The development of an entire new maize driven bio-fuels industry will create manifold economic benefits through a “knock-on effect” that will boost South African agriculture and its associated industries – including seed, refining agri-chemicals and agricultural machinery. A maize-driven bio-fuels industry would create jobs and help to provide a much needed boost for poverty reduction in South Africa’s rural areas. Both Omnia and Grain South Africa share the view that the entire maize industry will be strengthened and enlarged by the development of bio-fuels industry.

The benefits to the South African economy are further enhanced by the fact that there is a global need for renewable sources of energy, brought on by high fuel prices, environmental concerns, and the goal of reducing dependence on oil. The use of maize as a feedstock for bio-fuels contributes to the reduction of carbon emissions.

Omnia MD Rod Humphris said the key stakeholders in the energy debate - government, agriculture and commercial players, need to explore other mechanisms for prioritizing supplies of maize for food before ruling out the use of maize as a feedstock for bio-fuels.

“The South African maize industry has the capacity to produce sufficient maize for food and bio-fuels. Maize is a vital part of energy planning across the globe, and as the chorus of opposition to global warming and carbon emissions grows louder, we should be cautious that South Africa is well positioned to deal with these challenges," Humphris said.

Humphris said record oil prices were also adding impetus to the global drive towards bio-fuels, and that a maize driven bio-fuels industry would decrease the need for oil imports and the associated foreign exchange risks these bring.

Omnia shares the position of Grain SA, which supports a multi-feedstock approach in terms of the use of grains for the production of bio-energy. While Omnia is aware of the existence of particular sensitivities when decisions have to be made on grain for food versus grain for fuel, the use of maize as feedstock to the bio-fuels industry will increase rural economic development and food security.

As highlighted by Grain SA, the use of maize as a feedstock for bio-fuels will create opportunities for emerging farmers. In addition, the development of a bio-energy market is widely viewed as a welcome relief for farmers as it will create an alternative market for maize.

This alternative market will create improved stability and the resulting confidence will maintain, and even increase food security.