International guests study Ohio ethanol industry

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Ethanol Industry Meeting
The Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association hosted an ethanol industry tour for a group of government and business leaders from Africa and Europe Oct. 19 and 20. During a stop at his farm, John Linder (fifth from left) explained how the ethanol industry has improved profitability for his family’s farm near Edison. Wendy Osborn, director of market development for the association (far left), and Brad Moffett, ethanol specialist for the association (far right), accompanied the group as they toured farms, ethanol processing plants and retailers. (Gail Keck photo)

EDISON, Ohio — After touring corn fields and ethanol processors in Ohio, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Energy is seeing new possibilities for ethanol in his own country. William Aidoo was one of eight visitors from Africa and Europe who participated in an ethanol industry trade tour in Ohio Oct. 19 and 20.

“It’s been an eye-opener for me and my team,” he said.

The Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association hosted the group of government officials and business leaders. The tour followed the U.S. Grains Council’s Global Ethanol Summit held earlier in the week in Washington, D.C. Ten other groups also toured farms and facilities in other ethanol-producing states.

In Ohio, the tour group visited the farm of Richard, Rob and Bill Thompson near Wilmington and the Linder family’s farm near Edison. The group also toured ethanol retailers and processors.

John Linder, a board member for the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, farms with his wife, Cheryl, and his brother, Mike. He explained to the tour group how the growth of ethanol production in the state has improved profitability for his family’s farm by creating more local market outlets and improving basis prices.

Ethanol production benefits the state’s overall economy as well by adding value to the corn crop and generating jobs.

“Ohio does something I’m very proud of,” he said. “Ohio does value-added very well.”

Promoting development. In an interview, Linder added that the tour is helping promote exports of U.S. ethanol while also helping countries like Ghana develop their own ethanol industries.

“Developing nations are a long way from being self-sustained,” he said. “So, teaching them how to use our products and improve their quality of life doesn’t directly reduce their import needs.” Instead, helping other countries build their own ethanol industries gives them stronger local economies, he said. “They have to have an economy that creates jobs and money in order to buy.”

Implementing a hybrid model that includes both ethanol imports and the development of ethanol production capacity could help developing African countries move toward sustainability, according to Jack Bardakjian, group general manager for Gapuma Ltd. Gapuma is a procurement and logistics company based in the U.K. which has built trading partnerships with more than 30 countries in Africa. Bardakjian said he attended the Global Ethanol Summit and Ohio ethanol industry tours to better understand how the U.S. is developing its ethanol industry.

Transferring American technology to countries in Africa could help them develop their own ethanol industries, but many countries currently lack agricultural capacity to produce crops for ethanol, Bardakjian said.

“Certain parts of Africa don’t have enough farming potential at present to use ethanol as a fuel blend, so what they rely on is U.S. imports,” he said.

It’s important for the African countries he deals with to move toward their own sustainable production of ethanol for the benefit of their own economies and also to safeguard supplies, Bardakjian said. For instance, he’s concerned that American ethanol export capacity could be limited by an increase in demand for sustainable aviation fuel. In many African nations, the cost of energy is more of a market driver for ethanol than environmental concerns, he said.

Instead, those countries are looking at how ethanol can help reduce the cost of fuel. Nigeria, for instance, recently eliminated fuel subsidies, which caused a three-fold increase in fuel prices.

“You can imagine the impact that’s having on people who are earning the equivalent of $100 a month,” Bardakjian said.

In Ghana, both fuel prices and environmental concerns are contributing to increased interest in ethanol, said Aidoo. The country has a tiny carbon emissions footprint compared to more industrialized countries, he pointed out. “The whole of Africa, our contribution is about 3.5%.”

Even so, Ghana is working toward a goal of 10% ethanol fuel by 2030. Currently, ethanol is used in Ghana only as industrial fuel, not for motor vehicles. Making blended fuels available for vehicles would help reduce costs for consumers, he added.

As Deputy Minister of Energy, Aidoo hopes to convince other officials in his country to establish a framework to support ethanol production in Ghana. For instance, he’d like to require companies that import ethanol to also invest in local processing and feedstock production.

“My hope is that any company that will be licensed to import ethanol must prove that they have invested in the production of corn or cassava in Ghana in order for them to continue to sustain their license,” he said.

Development of an ethanol industry in Ghana must start with increased production of corn and cassava as feedstock, Aidoo stressed. Otherwise ethanol production would cut into the country’s food supply. “We will be ramping up the production of corn and cassava purposefully for ethanol and at the same time bringing in some ethanol from abroad.”

John Linder and William Aidoo
John Linder (left), a board member for the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, hosted a group of international visitors Oct. 20 on his family’s farm near Edison. Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Energy, William Aidoo, participated in the tour, which also included visits to ethanol processors and retailers. (Gail Keck photo)

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