Sunday, 3 February 2008

Food security as key: New biofuels report

If developing countries, particularly commodity producers are to benefit from biofuels sector development, they should consider strategic policy options that do not jeopardise their capacity to maintain sustainable food supply for their populations, according to a new study released by the Common Fund for Commodities at an international forum on biofuels held recently in Kuala Lumpur. “Fundamentally, there is a link between poverty reduction and biofuels sector development that can be promoted,” said Ambassador Ali Mchumo, the managing director of the Common Fund in Amsterdam.

“Both the outcome report and the study offer an assessment of the lifecycle costs and benefits of intensified biofuels production, while providing future outlook; and an attempt to identify the likely challenges and opportunities for commodity producers in developing countries in the coming years,” he said. The Biofuels study is the latest in the Commodity Issues Series commissioned by the Amsterdam-based intergovernmental organisation, whose mandate under the United Nations is to support developing countries that are commodity-dependent to improve and diversify commodities production and trade. It outlines a number of policy recommendations, specifically targeted to commodity-dependent developing countries, interested in broader bio-energy ventures and diversification.

The report further underscores the importance of astute policy formulation around four major areas that are pertinent in the ongoing debate about diversification policies for biofuels sector development, including food security issues and others, such as: energy security; rural and social development; climate change mitigation; export growth and diversification. At the forum in Kuala Lumpur, where member countries represented in the Common Fund were gathered for their annual meeting, prominent international experts made presentations demonstrating how different approaches work in the context of different countries and regions. In the report, the experts, including the lead author of the study, expanded on the potential food security implications of policies that have been undertaken by a number of countries and offered practical experiences gained in various biofuel initiatives in Brazil, India, Madagascar, Peru, Indonesia, as well as in Malaysia.

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