Despite expressing interest in the
potential of sugarcane-to-ethanol production in SA, the sugar industry maintains that the current lack of what it calls “a worthwhile local market” for ethanol is not conducive to investing in large-scale processing facilities.
SA Sugar Association (Sasa) spokesperson Jennifer Crawford said any expansion of the industry to take advantage of a potential ethanol market would be informed by normal investment considerations such as profitability and sustainability. Sasa said there is currently no domestic market for fuel ethanol, and any investment considerations would be based on expectations regarding the behaviour of the world fuel ethanol price.
Crawford was reacting to sentiments expressed recently by a delegation to SA from Brazil – a global leader in ethanol production – which called on SA to expand its areas under sugarcane and to add to its 14 sugar mills to take advantage of local ethanol production.
“We are giving serious thought to it and are fully supportive of an ethanol programme,” said SA Canegrowers spokesperson Jayne Ferguson. “However, while we are aware of the benefits of ethanol, we are also aware of the market conditions which are required to make ethanol production a sustainable and viable investment.”
Meanwhile, the local sugar industry said that it is looking forward to the finalisation of the government’s policy on biofuels, which will consider issues such as SA’s dependency on local and imported fossil fuels and job creation. – Lloyd Phillips