Jatropha Debate - Managed Plantations vs. Contract Farming

5:40 pm Bio Energy Plantations

Oil reserves are diminishing and the price per barrel is rising. The added cost, the looming depletion, and the impact on the environment are all gaining global attention. From federal government policies to individual lifestyle changes, people are aware of the need to manage our non-renewable energy sources and find affordable, renewable, and environmentally friendly energy solutions.

Enter Jatropha. This small shrub-like plant may be the answer. It is a hardy plant and its seeds produce more oil than the same amount of soybeans or corn, and the oil does not need extensive or pricy processing to make it into biodiesel. And, its seeds are toxic to animals and humans which means that fueling a car will not leave a family hungry.

So, if Jatropha is such an ideal alternative source for energy, why are Indian farmers not aggressively planting Jatropha as contract farmers? Bioenergy Plantations Pte Ltd wanted to uncover the reasons as part of its research into the viability of growing Jatropha for biodiesel. It found two key reasons that farmers chose other plants over Jatropha.

The first reason is crop-land diversion. While Jatropha cannot be eaten, it is grown in soil that could be used for food-based agriculture. And, if a farmer is a food producer, that crop-land is valuable to their livelihood only if it grows edible products. So, given the choice between Jatropha and an edible crop, the farmer would choose the latter.

The second reason is the cost of the agricultural process. From planting through harvesting to processing, a farmer may have one or two familiar and affordable logistical methods for food-based products. However, a Jatropha planting requires different (and perhaps unusual) methodology throughout growth, harvesting, and processing. While not particularly costly, the addition of equipment or procedures on the scale of a typical farm does create an additional (and seemingly unnecessary) expenditure. So, given the choice between Jatropha and a crop that doesn’t seem to cost to produce, the farmer would choose the latter.

Because of these two reasons, Indian farmers have tried and rejected Jatropha as an option for their farms. As such, contract farming of Jatropha is not an option for a viable production of Jatropha biodiesel. A solution would need to plant Jatropha plants in land that is not dedicated to food-based crops and would need to have an economy of scale that enabled production efficiently and affordably.

Managed plantations fit the bill and therefore are a likely alternative and Bioenergy Plantations investigated this possibility and found a vastly different result. When corporations acquire tracts of land and develop them specifically for large-scale Jatropha production, the issues are solved: Land-use becomes a non-issue because the land is not already set-aside for food-based crops, and the economies of scale enable affordable production.

Further field-work has shown that farmers and their families support managed plantations as laborers much more readily than adopting Jatropha on their own farms.

Bioenergy Plantations concludes that only companies utilizing the Managed Plantation model and building sustainable corporations to support Jatropha projects will successfully drive the cost of Jatropha oil below $20 per barrel.

One Response

  1. admin Says:

    Hi Bobby,

    100 hectares of land is viable for managed plantation to start with.. How much oil do you have presently.. We can take your oil..

    Best Regards,
    Naren Raju
    +65 81647379
    naren@bioenergyplantations.com

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