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    Spanish company Ferry Group is to invest €42/US$55.2 million in a project for the production of biomass fuel pellets in Bulgaria. The 3-year project consists of establishing plantations of paulownia trees near the city of Tran. Paulownia is a fast-growing tree used for the commercial production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Hungary's BHD Hõerõmû Zrt. is to build a 35 billion Forint (€138/US$182 million) commercial biomass-fired power plant with a maximum output of 49.9 MW in Szerencs (northeast Hungary). Portfolio.hu - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Tonight at 9pm, BBC Two will be showing a program on geo-engineering techniques to 'save' the planet from global warming. Five of the world's top scientists propose five radical scientific inventions which could stop climate change dead in its tracks. The ideas include: a giant sunshade in space to filter out the sun's rays and help cool us down; forests of artificial trees that would breath in carbon dioxide and stop the green house effect and a fleet futuristic yachts that will shoot salt water into the clouds thickening them and cooling the planet. BBC News - Feb. 19, 2007.

    Archer Daniels Midland, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, is planning to open a biodiesel plant in Indonesia with Wilmar International Ltd. this year and a wholly owned biodiesel plant in Brazil before July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The Brazil plant is expected to be the nation's largest, the paper said. Worldwide, the company projects a fourfold rise in biodiesel production over the next five years. ADM was not immediately available to comment. Reuters - Feb. 16, 2007.

    Finnish engineering firm Pöyry Oyj has been awarded contracts by San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. to provide services for the first bioethanol plant in the Philippines. The aggregate contract value is EUR 10 million. The plant is to be build in the Province of San Carlos on the north-eastern tip of Negros Island. The plant is expected to deliver 120,000 liters/day of bioethanol and 4 MW of excess power to the grid. Kauppalehti Online - Feb. 15, 2007.

    In order to reduce fuel costs, a Mukono-based flower farm which exports to Europe, is building its own biodiesel plant, based on using Jatropha curcas seeds. It estimates the fuel will cut production costs by up to 20%. New Vision (Kampala, Uganda) - Feb. 12, 2007.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided to use 10% biodiesel in its fleet of public buses. The world's largest city is served by the Toei Bus System, which is used by some 570,000 people daily. Digital World Tokyo - Feb. 12, 2007.

    Fearing lack of electricity supply in South Africa and a price tag on CO2, WSP Group SA is investing in a biomass power plant that will replace coal in the Letaba Citrus juicing plant which is located in Tzaneen. Mining Weekly - Feb. 8, 2007.

    In what it calls an important addition to its global R&D capabilities, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is to build a new bioenergy research center in Hamburg, Germany. World Grain - Feb. 5, 2007.

    EthaBlog's Henrique Oliveira interviews leading Brazilian biofuels consultant Marcelo Coelho who offers insights into the (foreign) investment dynamics in the sector, the history of Brazilian ethanol and the relationship between oil price trends and biofuels. EthaBlog - Feb. 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has announced its renewable energy target: 12% of all energy should come from renewables by 2020. The plan is expected to revitalise Taiwan's agricultural sector and to boost its nascent biomass industry. China Post - Feb. 2, 2007.

    Production at Cantarell, the world's second biggest oil field, declined by 500,000 barrels or 25% last year. This virtual collapse is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos. Wall Street Journal - Jan. 30, 2007.

    Dubai-based and AIM listed Teejori Ltd. has entered into an agreement to invest €6 million to acquire a 16.7% interest in Bekon, which developed two proprietary technologies enabling dry-fermentation of biomass. Both technologies allow it to design, establish and operate biogas plants in a highly efficient way. Dry-Fermentation offers significant advantages to the existing widely used wet fermentation process of converting biomass to biogas. Ame Info - Jan. 22, 2007.

    Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is to build a biofuel production plant in the tribal belt of Banswara, Rajasthan, India. The petroleum company has acquired 20,000 hectares of low value land in the district, which it plans to commit to growing jatropha and other biofuel crops. The company's chairman said HPCL was also looking for similar wasteland in the state of Chhattisgarh. Zee News - Jan. 15, 2007.

    The Zimbabwean national police begins planting jatropha for a pilot project that must result in a daily production of 1000 liters of biodiesel. The Herald (Harare), Via AllAfrica - Jan. 12, 2007.

    In order to meet its Kyoto obligations and to cut dependence on oil, Japan has started importing biofuels from Brazil and elsewhere. And even though the country has limited local bioenergy potential, its Agriculture Ministry will begin a search for natural resources, including farm products and their residues, that can be used to make biofuels in Japan. To this end, studies will be conducted at 900 locations nationwide over a three-year period. The Japan Times - Jan. 12, 2007.

    Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched an arrogant attack on "quasi-hysterical Europeans" and their attitudes to global warming, calling the Stern Review 'dubious'. The remarks illustrate the yawning gap between opinions on climate change among Europeans and Americans, but they also strengthen the view that announcements by US car makers and legislators about the development of green vehicles are nothing more than window dressing. Today, the EU announced its comprehensive energy policy for the 21st century, with climate change at the center of it. BBC News - Jan. 10, 2007.

    The new Canadian government is investing $840,000 into BioMatera Inc. a biotech company that develops industrial biopolymers (such as PHA) that have wide-scale applications in the plastics, farmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Plant-based biopolymers such as PHA are biodegradable and renewable. Government of Canada - Jan. 9, 2007.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Poor farmers in Mizoram to benefit massively from oil palm plan

The North-eastern state of Mizoram, which is squeezed between Bangladesh and Burma, is one of India's poorest. Already under British rule, Mizoram was considered to be 'backward', because inhabited by 'tribal' people whose lands were not easily accessible and who (successfully) resisted the Raj. This discourse still reigns in India today. Mizoram is located far away from Delhi and Mumbai, geographically as well as conceptually. The state is left to care for itself, and doesn't enjoy the benefits of India's booming economy.

These conditions have led all kinds social and political movements to spring up, and the people of Mizoram have been demanding and taking a high degree of independence from the central government. Though poor as it is, the state has one of the highest rates of precipitation on the planet, making it suitable for the cultivation of lucrative energy crops that demand humid conditions and high temperatures. Bamboo is one such crop, and it has been recognized as a major energy crop for the state. Striving towards energy independence, Mizoram aims to fuel its future with the biomass from the woody grass (earlier post).

The climate and soils in Mizoram are also favorable to that other high-potential energy crop, palm oil. The State government has therefor launched a major plan to establish palm plantations with the aim of alleviating poverty. It intends to start exporting the oil to the world market, where demand is growing rapidly, boosted by the thirst for palm oil as a biodiesel feedstock.

The 5-year, €130/US$165 million plan falls under the so-called Mizoram Intodelhna Programme (MIP) (which can be translated as 'Mizoram Self-sufficiency Program'), aimed at enhancing food and fuel security and better livelihoods for poor cultivators.

The Mizoram government is bringing together agro-industrial companies, multinationals and cooperatives to implement the scheme. Godrej Agvovet Limited, Foods Fats and Fertilizers Ltd and Palmtech India have committed to investing €43/US$55 million each to start their work to develop oil palm trees on an area of 100,000 hectares in the Kolasib, Mamit, Serchhip and Lunglei districts of the state. Agriculture minister H. Rammawi says "The detailed survey by the multinationals clearly indicated that the climatic conditions of the state are best suited for the cultivation [of oil palms]".

The agreements between the state and the private companies include the procurement of oil palm planting materials, establishing nurseries, supplying seedlings, providing agronomic assistance to the palm farmers and processing of the oil palm fruits.

Major income boost for poor farmers
State agriculture assistant director P Battacharaya said over 5000 farmers and their families across the state would benefit from the project. He stressed that "within seven years, a farmer is expected to earn a minimum of 50,000 rupees [US$860/US$1100] per annum provided he utilises his two-hectares of land to plant 150 trees for the oil palm cultivation." Average per capita incomes in the state are around 20,000 rupees per year. Mr Battacharaya added that "This oil palm scheme will not only benefit the farmers but also hundreds of unemployed youths across the state." Plantation companies are already recruiting agriculture graduates for this project, offering them monthly salaries of Rs 10,000-15,000 initially:
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These companies would also help the farmers avail loan from the commercial and cooperative banks for the cultivation.

Besides, Mr Bhattacharya said the primary objective of this huge project is to control shifting 'Jhum' (slash and burn) cultivation as well as to cultivate alternative crops during the bamboo flowering. (Bamboo flowering, which occurs only once every few decades, is a very dangerous event, because it threatens to destroy the entire crop. This is currently happening in North-eastern India, and it is seen as a real economic catastrophy.)

Meanwhile, the state government has also chalked out various programmes to identify another 10,000 hectares of land for the red oil palm cultivation to be soon tendered among several other global companies.

More information:

The Hindu: Mizoram to export palm oil by 2010 - Sept. 25, 2006

Daily India: Rs.850 mn to tackle bamboo flowering in northeast - Sept. 29, 2006


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