This paper asks how investment in large-scale sugar cane production has contributed, and will contribute, to rural development in southern Africa. Taking a case study of the South African company Illovo in Zambia, the argument is made that the potential for greater tax revenue, domestic competition, access to resources and wealth distribution from sugar/ethanol production have all been perverted and with relatively little payoff in wage labour opportunities in return. If the benefits of agro-exports cannot be so easily assumed, then the prospective 'balance sheet' of biofuels needs to be re-examined. In this light, the paper advocates smaller-scale agrarian initiatives
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