British firm lures farmers to grow tuba-tuba

“Farmers can pay us upon harvest,” Recto Doctor, country agronomist of D1 Oils Asia Pacific, Inc., a subsidiary of D1 Oils UK, said. The firm wants jatropha planted in at least 10,000 hectares of land.

Doctor said the firm is aggressive in its jatropha project now that the country is implementing the Biofuels Act, which was signed into law only last January 17.

But Doctors said they prefer unutilized lands turned into jatropha plantations rather than converting existing farmlands planted to corn, rice and other crops.

Jatropha,  he said, would help alleviate poverty in the countryside and can help in the protection of the environment since it can prevent soil erosion.

The crop is due for harvest seven months from planting and has a life span of 30 years. For the first year,  a hectare could yield between P15,000 to P20,000 and grows bigger to P30,000 as the plant matures.

D1 Oils Asia is working out a financing window for farmers through the Land Bank of the Philippines

The firm has plans to establish a refinery in the country but only after the desired number of hectares will be planted to jatropha, Doctor said.

Jatropha planted over 500 or 1,000 hectares would be good for an extracting plant, he said.

At present, jatropha has been planted in less than 100 hectares of land in Southwestern Mindanao.

Riding on the prospect of the biofuel industry, independent oil producers like Seaoil Philippines Corp. earlier revealed plans to embark on an initial public offering this year or early 2008 to raise funds for the construction of an ethanol plant.

Under the Biofuels Act, gasoline should initially be blended with 5% ethanol, ensuring a steady market for ethanol producers.

Seaoil is also part of the recently formed Enerfuse Holdings, Inc. that is putting up a biodiesel plant in Sasa, Davao City. Enerfuse also includes independent oil firms Eastern Petroleum Corp., Flying V and Unioil

Jatropha is a rich source of biodiesel that is considered an alternative to the depleting global supply of fossil fuels. Biodiesel is being promoted also as an environmentally friendly fuel.

In its website, D1 Asia, based in Singapore, said that future demand for biodiesel is expected to be strong in Southeast Asia, a region with a suitable climatic condition for jatropha.

In 2005, D1 Asia forged an agreement with the Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. to collaborate on a project in the Philippines aimed at rehabilitating land previously degraded by mining through the cultivation of jatropha. (MindaNews)