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June 10, 2009

Brazil offers to help Africa boost food output

by Diadie Ba

Brazil is ready to provide its experience and technology free of charge to African nations seeking to improve food production and develop biofuels, its minister for development, industry and trade recently said.

Brazil, a major food producer and the world's leading ethanol exporter, is expanding links with Africa, where initial tests with biofuels have had mixed results and spikes in food prices have accelerated calls for development in agriculture.

"Our country is the most important producer of food in the world and we can help Africa, free of charge, to transfer the technology of food processing," said Miguel Jorge, Brazil's minister for development, industry and foreign trade.

Brazil is the world's top sugar, beef and chicken exporter, the second largest shipper of soya and the No. 3 maize exporter.

Jorge, who is leading a Brazilian trade delegation visiting Africa to promote agricultural technologies, said Brazil could help the world's poorest continent boost food production, without giving any further details.

The Brazilian Africultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) said the focus should be on helping African countries add value to the products that they grow.

"West African countries require a lot of technologies for processing cashew nuts, casava and for adding values to the products, and we are ready to help," said Claudio Bragantini, EMBRAPA's Africa representative.

Escalating food and fuel prices in recent years have led to social unrest in many African countries, which are now under pressure to increase and improve investments in agriculture.

Many in biotechnology industry see Africa as a destination for future investments as the continent has perhaps the greatest need as well as the most to gain from it.

Alongside developing food production, Brazil, which accounts for 95 percent of global ethanol exports, is keen to see African nations extend efforts made in biofuel development.

"We develop the most important biofuel technology in the world and we can transfer it for free to African countries," Jorge said, adding the nations could produce bio-diesel as well as ethanol.

EMBRAPA's Bragatini said Brazil was working on a programme to improve the volumes of oil recovered from jatropha plants.

Social unrest in African nations was exacerbated by last year's escalating fuel prices.

The Brazilian delegation will visit Ghana, which is already receiving assistance in developing biofuel technology, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.


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