Africa: South Africa’s president says biofuel crops must not crowd out food (BuaNews, Business Day)

| November 3, 2008

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South Africa’s president has raised concerns that the continent’s arable land is being taken over by multinationals for biofuel production. Kgalema Motlanthe recently highlighted the issue while addressing African leaders at the first Extraordinary Summit of the African Peer Review Forum in Benin.

Corporations are moving into the continent, buying large tracks of land, and establishing plantations and factories for the production of biofuels, Mr. Motlanthe stated. He was particularly concerned that land in major grain-producing countries is being diverted into biofuel production. This may lead to less land being available for food production, the president added.

Mr. Motlanthe’s address reflected the concerns of many farmers’ groups and other civil society organizations. They fear that the growing demand for bio-mass to make biofuels could push food production off Africa’s most fertile lands.

The president said he was not opposed to biofuels in principle. However, in his opinion, biofuel projects should be part of land reform strategies driven by African governments and peoples themselves.

The production of crops for biofuels has raised considerable controversy in South Africa. Last year, the South African government announced that it would not allow maize to be used for biofuels. Within days, however, the government reversed its position under pressure from maize producers who see biofuel processing as a valuable new market.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on crops for fuel