South Africa says mandatory biofuels blending to start in 2015

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A field of sunflowers in Mariovo villages near Biota southern Macedonia, [some 170km from the capital Skopje] in a file photo.

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa has set the beginning of October 2015 as the date from which fuel producers will have to blend diesel and petrol with biofuels, the Department of Energy said on Monday.

The government said in August last year that fuel producers would be required to blend a minimum of 5 percent biodiesel in diesel and between 2 and 10 percent of bioethanol in petrol.

The Minister of Energy had now set October 1, 2015 as the date on which the regulations come into operation, department spokesman Johannes Mokobane told Reuters.

Africa's biggest economy imports 60 percent of its crude oil needs and became a net importer of finished petroleum products several years ago. Biofuels are expected to reduce its reliance on imported fuel.

The biofuels industry in South Africa, the continent's biggest agricultural producer, has been held back by an inadequate regulatory regime and concerns that biofuels would hurt food security and impact food prices.

Canola, sunflower and soya are feedstock for biodiesel, while sugarcane and sugar beet are feedstock for ethanol.

The government said maize, South Africa's staple food, could not be used in the production of biofuels in order to ensure food security and keep a lid on high prices.