23 major foreign bioenergy investments in developing countries

GRAIN, an international non-profit organization, tracks large-scale investments involving food crops in the developing world. From its dataset of the over 400 transactions tracked since 2006, 23 are related to the bioenergy industry. These are listed below. Note, that projects involving jatropha or eucalypts were generally not included.


1. Angola, 30,000 hectares by Eurico Ferreira of Portugal:

In 2008, Portuguese conglomerate Eurico Ferreira’s renewable energy subsidiary, Proef, announced that it was pursuing a USD 200 million, 30,000 ha sugarcane project in the Zaire Province of northern Angola.

2. Cameroon, 200,000 hectares by Biopalm Energy of India:

Biopalm Energy is a subsidiary of Singapore-based Siva Group, owned by Indian billionaire C. Sivasankaran. The company is also seeking 80,000 ha in Sierra Leone and other lands in Ghana, Argentina, Côte d’Ivoire and DR Congo to produce palm oil for export to India. In February 2011, Biopalm acquired a 50 percent stake in the Liberian operations of Equatorial Palm Oil, which has 169,000 ha of land in the country.

3. Congo-Brazzaville, 70,000 hectares by ENI of Italy:

ENI is a giant Italian energy company majority owned by the Italian Government. In 2009, ENI signed an MoU with the Government of the Republic of the Congo for an oil-palm plantation project, known as Food Plus Biodiesel, in the Niari region, in the north-west of the Congo.

4. Congo-Brazzaville, 44,000 hectares by FRI-EL Green of Italy:

In July 2008, Reuters reported that FRI-EL Green Power, an Italian company half-owned by German energy giant RWE, had purchased Congolese state-owned companies Sangha Palm and Congo National Palm Plantations Authority, giving it control of 4,000 ha of oil-palm plantations, and signed an agreement with the Government of the Congo to develop oil-palm plantations on an additional 40,000 ha over 30 years.

5. DR Congo, 100,000 hectares by ZTE Energy of China:

ZTE Corporation is China’s largest telecommunications company, with operations in more than 140 countries. In 2007, it established ZTE Energy to invest in biofuels and food production in China and overseas. In 2008, ZTE purchased 258 ha in Menkao, near Kinshasa, to study the potential for agriculture five degrees north and south of the equator, and then purchased a 600 ha farm in 2010. It has a 100,000 ha concession for an oil-palm plantation from the Government of the DRC, but it has put this project on hold.

6. Ethiopia, 56,000 hectares by Acazis AG of Germany:

Formerly Flora Ecopower Holding, which was a spin-off of the Israeli Hovev Group, Acazis is now majority-owned by the Luxembourg-based renewable energy group Athanor Equities, and trades on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. With the freeze of edible-oil prices by the Ethiopian government in 2011, Acazis shifted production from castor to peanuts to produce peanut oil.

7. Ethiopia, 50,000 hectares by Shapoorji Pallonji and Co. (S&P Co.) of India:

In March 2011, India’s S & P Co. signed an agreement with the Government of Ethiopia to produce food crops and pongamia fruit for agrofuels on 50,000 ha in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region.

8. Ghana, 3,940 hectares by Bionic Palm Limited of Germany:

Bionic Fuel Group is an engineering company that develops and builds synthetic fuel reactors and turnkey production plants. In 2008, it established Bionic Palm Limited (BPL) in Ghana to invest in agricultural production. In Ghana, the company acquired a palm oil mill and 1,750 ha on a 50 year lease for oil palm plantations. The company says that it has completed negotiations for another 2,190 ha, and intends to increase its total oil palm plantations to 10,000 ha.

9. Liberia, 169,000 hectares by Equatorial Palm Oil of the United Kingdom:

EPO has three concessions between Buchanan and Greenville, totaling 169,000 ha. In February 2011, the company’s Liberian palm oil plantations and assets were incorporated into a 50-50 joint venture with Biopalm Energy, a Singaporean company controlled by Indian billionaire C. Sivasankaran, which has recently acquired other large-scale palm oil concessions in Cameroon and Sierra Leone.

10. Mali, 2,605 hectares by Agro-énergie Développement of France:

Agro-énergie Développement (AgroEd) is a company set up to invest in vertically integrated biofuels and food production in developing countries. It is 51 percent owned by France’s LMBO Finances, with France’s former Minister of Defence Charles Million as a director. The company’s acquisitions of farmland in West Africa are said to be mainly for jatropha, such as its November 2007 deal with Burkina Faso for 200,000 ha and its deal with Mail for 30,000 ha in the Office du Niger.

11. Mozambique, 24,000 hectares by Tata Chemicals of India:

In July 2011, Bloomberg reported that Grow Energy, a subsidiary of India’s Tata Chemicals, would invest USD 320 million to develop an ethanol plant and sugar cane plantations on 24,000 ha in Mozambique.

12. Mozambique, 10,000 hectares by MedEnergy of Italy:

MedEnergy Global is a UK-based holding company owned by Italy’s Belleli family, which made its fortune in the energy sector. MedEnergy is pursuing a 10,000 ha oil-palm plantation project in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province.

13. Nigeria, 11,292 hectares by FRI-EL Green of Italy:

In 2009, FRI-EL Green, an Italian company half-owned by German energy giant RWE, purchased an 11,000-ha oil-palm plantation in Abia State in southern Nigeria, with rights to expand the concession to up to 100,000 ha.

14. Sierra Leone, 80,000 hectares by Biopalm Energy of India:

Biopalm Energy is a subsidiary of Singapore-based Siva Group, owned by Indian billionaire C. Sivasankaran. The company is also seeking 80,000 ha in Sierra Leone and other lands in Ghana, Argentina, Côte d’Ivoire and DR Congo to produce palm oil for export to India. In February 2011, Biopalm acquired a 50 percent stake in the Liberian operations of Equatorial Palm Oil, which has a landbank of 169,000 ha in the country.

Source: Enerzine.com

15. Sierra Leone, 15,500 hectares by Addax Bioenergy of Switzerland:

Addax Bioenergy Sierra Leone Ltd is a subsidiary of Addax & Oryx, a Swiss-based energy corporation. In 2010, the company acquired long-term lease rights to over 15,000 ha of land in Bombali District, Northern Province, Sierra Leone, where it intends to establish sugar-cane plantations, mainly for the production of ethanol for European markets. Over half of the investment in the project has been provided by development banks, including the European Investment Bank, Swedfund and the African Development Bank.

16. Swaziland, 15,000 hectares by Fuel Ethanol and Agricultural Plantation of South Africa:

In January 2012, Swaziland’s Minister of Agriculture Clement Dlamini announced that the South African company Fuel Ethanol and Agricultural Plantation would develop a sweet-sorghum plantation to produce ethanol. The project will be established along the Siphofanen/Lavumisa corridor.


17. Indonesia, 100,000 hectares by Minerals Energy Commodities Holding of the UAE:

Minerals Energy Commodities Holding (MEC) is a 50-50 joint venture between the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority of the UAE and the UAE-based mining company Trimex. In February 2010, it was reported that the company was planning a 100,000 ha agricultural project in the East Kalimantan region of Indonesia.

18. Laos, 50,000 hectares by ZTE Energy of China:

In October 2010, Asian Sentinel reported that ZTE had reached an agreement with Laotian authorities for 50,000 ha to produce cassava, and that it was looking for up to 100,000 ha across four southern provinces.

19. Papua New Guinea, 33,000 hectares by Changhee Engineering of South Korea:

Changhae is a Korean producer of animal feeds and biofuels. In 2005, the company signed an agreement with the Government of PNG for a USD 26 million cassava-based ethanol project. Through two subsidiaries in PNG, Changhae Tapioka Ltd and Cassava Etagon Holdings Ltd, Changhae acquired two concessions covering 33,000 ha in total in Central Province and New Ireland Province to produce cassava. PNG newspapers reported that Changhea would invest USD 6 million in the development of its cassava plantations.

20. Philippines, 11,000 hectares by Green Future Innovation of Japan:

Green Future Innovations is a joint venture sugarcane and ethanol project between Itochu Corp. and JGC Corp. of Japan, Bioethanol and Energy Investments Corp. of the Philippines and GCO of Taiwan. The project includes the development of an 11,000 ha sugarcane plantation in the province of Isabela.

21. Philippines, 5,000 hectares by San Carlos Bio-Energy of the United Kingdom:

In 2003, Bronzeoak Ltd established Bronzeoak Philippines in partnership with Zabaleta & Co. of the Philippines to develop sugar-cane-based energy projects in the Philippines. More recently, the Swiss-German ThomasLloyd Group and FE Clean Energy of New York have joined the company. In 2006, with financing from China Bank, Bronzeoak Philippines opened an ethanol plant on Negros Island that will be supplied by a 5,000 ha sugarcane plantation that the company is also developing in the area.


22. Ukraine, 11,600 hectares by Sustainable Bio Energy Holding GmbH of Germany:

Sustainable Bio Energy Holding GmbH is majority-owned by two German municipal utility companies, Stadtwerke Uelzen (37.5%) and Stadtwerke Schwäbisch Hall (37.5%). It controls 11,600 ha of farmland in Ukraine.

Latin America

23. Brazil, 30,000 hectares by Clean Energy Brazil of the United Kingdom:

Clean Energy Brazil is an investment company based in the UK and registered in the Cayman Islands that was launched in 2006 by London financial house Numis and Mexican sugar trader Czarnikow, with over USD100 million in committed funds to invest in Brazilian sugar-cane production and processing. Through the acquisition of several Brazilian sugar-cane companies, it has acquired and leased lands for sugar-cane plantations that, when put into production, will cover more than 30,000 ha.

See GRAIN’s website to download the whole dataset and to learn about the organization’s cause. And see this previous post at biomass-energy.org for other biomass energy investments in the developing world.