Farmers beginning to gain additional income from jatropha plantations
Manila (21 July) -- The government's alternative fuel program is on track with farmers here now reaping additional income from their jatropha plantations.
An example is the two-hectare nursery and plantation of the family of Datu Sabel Utap in Purok Lanton, Barangay Apopong here who now gets P35 per kilo of jatropha seeds that they sell to the Philippine National Oil Corporation-Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC).
Utap is a farmer/grower of the Jubilee Agri-Advancement Corporation (JAC), PNOC-AFC's partner in the SocSKSarGen (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos City) sub-region.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will visit the two-hectare nursery and plantation tomorrow (Monday) where she will also receive a briefing by PNOC-AFC Chairman Renato Velasco on the status of jatropha propagation in SocSKSarGen.
After signing Republic Act 9367 (R.A.) or the Biofuels Act of 2006 last January, the President directed the PNOC-AFC to spearhead the biofuels project with the corporation considering jatropha curcas, locally known as tuba-tuba, as the most viable feedstock for biodiesel production.
Jatropha curcas has been found to have the best potential for biodiesel having a yield of up to 40 percent of oil from its seed.
Based on this estimate, a plantation of some 2,000-2,500 jatropha plants per hectare could yield up to five tons of seeds or an equivalent of about 3,000 liters of biodiesel which is now popular in Europe as an additive to petrochemical fuel.
The jatropha tree starts yielding a good amount of seeds from the second year onwards, and continues for some 40 years.
Undemanding in soil type, the drought- and pest-resistant jatropha tree can be planted almost anywhere particularly in non-agriculture areas and thus will not to compete with the food, production program of the government.
In her SONA last year, the President supported jatropha production as an alternative and cleaner fuel to lessen the country's dependence on imported fossil fuel, and at the same time contribute to the poverty alleviation efforts in the countryside by providing additional income for growers.
Last Feb. 7, the PNOC-AFC and JAC signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on the establishment of a 500-hectare jatropha orchard in SOCSKSARGEN for seedlings propagation and seed production to supply the requirements of jatropha plantations in the region.
The JAC, in partnership with farmer growers, has already planted some 783 hectares with jatropha in General Santos City alone, capable of producing one ton of jatropha seeds per week.
Last July 3, the PNOC-AFC and Landan People's Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LPMC), a private independent pineapple growers' cooperative of DOLE Philippines based in Polomolok, South Cotabato, also signed an agreement to plant jatropha on 5,000 hectares of marginal, idle and unproductive lands in SOCSKSARGEN.
Eco-Global, a Korean biodiesel producer has also expressed interest in establishing a commercial-scale jatropha nursery-cum-plantation in various areas in the SOCSKSARGEN. Its initial activities are concentrated in Barangays Lagao and Mabuhay in General Santos City.
As jatropha farming is seen to expand into a mainstream industry, the future of the farmer growers and the market for jatropha seeds would be guaranteed since PNOC-AFC would purchase jatropha seeds in commercial quantity for the production of crude jatropha oil and jatropha methyl ester.
Based on studies, the projected demand for local biodiesel would grow from 264,000 tons of fuel oil equivalent (KTOE) this year to 335.01 KTOE in 2014, not to mention the increasing need for biofuels for the global economy.
With the commercial production of jatropha in the country, the Philippines would soon join developed countries like the United Kingdom, India and other nations in Europe in using biodiesel as a renewable and environment-friendly alternative to petrochemical diesel. (PIA-MMIO) [top]