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RPT-Brazil and UK to develop ethanol project in Africa

Repeating story for wider distribution
/ Source: Reuters

Repeating story for wider distribution

Brazil, the world's largest ethanol exporter, and Britain want to develop the production of ethanol from sugar cane in southern Africa, officials from both governments said on Tuesday.

The move is intended to diversify cheap ethanol production globally to meet fast-growing international demand. Many potential consumers are hesitant to increase their ethanol consumption because Brazil is the only large global supplier.

"The product needs to become (more) available to consumers," Brazilian Industry and Trade Minister Luiz Furlan told a news conference. "The commitment of both countries is to develop other (ethanol) supplier countries."

Brazil and the United Kingdom are tackling "one of the biggest threats in the world today -- climate change," UK Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Alistair Darling told the news conference.

Darling said many countries wanting to reduce carbon-based fuels could learn from Brazil.

"I can now confront any car manufacturer in Europe who tells me that people won't buy cars powered by ethanol," he said after test-driving a "flex-fuel" car, which operates on ethanol or gasoline.

The flex-fuel technology was developed in Brazil and now accounts for about 75 percent of all new car sales.

Strong international demand for ethanol has increased prices sharply, after several countries in Europe and Asia made a minimum consumption of biofuels obligatory.

In Brazil, ethanol accounts for about 40 percent of all motorists' non-diesel fuel consumption.

A UK-Brazil task force is to present a business proposal within 90 days to produce cane-derived ethanol in southern Africa, Furlan said.

A feasibility study commissioned by the UK and Brazil had already identified several countries, particularly South Africa and Mozambique, where sugar cane production was commercially viable, a Darling aide said.

Brazilian agronomists visited South Africa in recent weeks and found no "technical impediments," Furlan said.

Brazilians were working to "re-adapt" and increase the productivity of 11 varieties of sugar cane originally from South Africa.