Bio-diesel:Incentives to farmers needed,says Plng Comm member

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New Delhi, Feb 1 (UNI) Planning Commission Member Kirit Parikh today suggested giving rebate in import duty to edible and non-edible oil importing companies if they go in for Jatropha plantation for production of biodiesel.

He said the government will have to work out a comprehensive policy of incentives and disincentives to make the stakeholders go in for planting jatropha for biodiesel purposes.

At the local level, production of biodiesel from jatropha should be made viable for each stakeholder in the system, said Mr Parikh.

It had to be seen whether producing this source of biodiesel would be economically comparable to diesel prices, as today it was not difficult to see that the diesel extracted from the plant's seeds would be much cheaper than the oil, but if the situation changed tomorrow and the prices of oil went down for some reason, the farmers would not be able to get adequate returns for his labour, he said.

Mr Parikh was speaking at a conference on 'Climate Change and Biodiesel' inaugurated earlier in the day by Minister for New Renewable Energy Vilas Muttemwar. The conference has been organised by the Biodiesel Association.

Pointing out that four tonnes of seeds were required to extract 1.2 tone of biodiesel, he said for a viable extraction, the yield needed to be increased to 12 tonnes per hectare.

Moreover, to make the whole exercise economically viable, jatropha had to be planted on a very large scale. Besides, some effective methods needed to be devised to motivate the farmers, he said.

Giving an overview of the situation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd(BPCL) A K Bansal said jatropha plantation for biodiesel purposes had great potential for raising the farmers' income.

He suggested that some of the transport subsidy should go to farmers planting jatropha as a sort of motivation.

Environmental economist Jyoti Parikh in her presenation questioned the myth that prices of foodgrains had gone up because of plantations for biodiesel fuel.

She said it was wrong to say that land was not available for jatropha plantation, as large tracts of marginal agricultural lands could be utilised for the purpose.

Ms Parikh said there was also a view that more energy could go into the production of biofuel than would be saved by its use. This, she said could be the case in developed countries where farming was highly mechanised and long transportation of biodiesel to the places of use was required.

Prof P P Bhojvaid of TERI sought to sound a note of caution, saying that the enthusiasm for extracting biodiesel from jatropha should not lead one to turn a blind eye to some of the most obvious problems invlolved.

He said so far no large scale jatropha plantation had been taken up, so there was no reliable data regarding its economic viability for farmers, and its environmental impacts.

Moreover, not all the wasteleand jatropha could be planted, and to increase yield, one would have to use fertiliser which would again raise many environmental problems.

All these aspects and factors needed to be taken into account before formulating any policy on the biodiesel, he said.

UNI NAZ MS AS1745

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