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Oil report

RWE's Fri-el Green buys Congo palm farms for biofuel

BRAZZAVILLE, July 23 (Reuters) - Italian renewable fuel specialist Fri-el Green has signed a 30-year draft deal with the Republic of Congo to grow 40,000 hectares of oil palm to make biofuels, Congolese government officials said on Wednesday.

The deal would see Fri-el Green, half-owned by German energy company RWE RWEG.DE, take control of Congolese state-owned companies Sangha Palm and Congo National Palm Plantations Authority (RNPC) for an undisclosed sum.

Sangha and RNPC have nearly 4,000 hectares of palm plantations in the northern part of the country.

Republic of Congo, an oil exporting country lying northeast of the larger Democratic Republic of Congo, has been withdrawing from state agricultural enterprises under a privatisation programme drawn up with Western donors.

Renewable fuel companies are increasing their interests in Africa and fertile regions elsewhere around the world as record high oil prices and fears over global warming increase demand for alternatives to fossil fuels. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: africa.reuters.com) (Reporting by Christian Tsoumou; writing by Alistair Thomson)

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