Zambia has the opportunity to produce biodiesel from soya, to replace the expensive diesel import. Then however, local production would need to be stimulated with tax exemptions, the Wageningen economist Dusan Drabik advises together with American researchers.
<Photo: Zambian farmers weeding in soya fields>
Currently Zambia needs to import all the gasoline and diesel. The costs of importing are high and therefore the Zambian government kept the gasoline prices low with subsidies. A couple of years ago the government ceased the subsidy regulation and announced a policy to produce biodiesel from soya themselves. The economists investigated the effects of this regulation. Without additional policies, the use of own soya as fuel would be disadvantageous for the Zambian economy, they wrote in the magazine Food Policy this month.
In that case the population would have to pay more for the home grown biodiesel compared to what they spend on imported diesel. Also the soya farmers would receive less for their fuel oil compared to what they earn now for the exported soya oil. This plan can only succeed if the Zambian farmers would grow more soya. Therefore, the government needs to stimulate the production with tax exemptions on soya, is their advice. It is better that the government does not make the biodiesel use mandatory, the economists of Wageningen, Cornell University and the World Bank stated.
Should the stimulation of soya production succeed, then the Zambian soya farmers need to also solve another problem. The soya production in south and east Africa is increasingly suffering from Phakopsora pachyrhizi. This soil fungus, which affects the leaf of the soya plants, is quickly spreading across the African continent. No resistance to the rapidly mutating fungus was found yet, the Wageningen phytopathologists reported in the Plant Pathology this month. The Wageningen PhD student Harun Murithi, working for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Tanzania, is now working to understand the genetics and ecology of the damaging soil fungus.