Feb 16, 2010

The Jatropha bubble is at the verge of bursting

I am not the least surprised. This was bound to happen sooner or later. The 'miracle' crop has failed to deliver. The claims made by investing firms have fallen flat. Reports appearing from across the world now show that more and more farmers are getting disillusioned with jatropha.

India had also jumped on the jatropha bandwagon in haste. You have probably followed reports on this blog earlier. In case you missed it, here is the link: Jatropha seeds fuelling another scandal?

The Independent (Feb 15) now says In India, forecasted annual yields of three to five tonnes of seeds per hectare have been scaled back to 1.8 to two tonnes. It quoted Raju Sona, a farmer in north-east India who gave up land that usually produces vegetables to grow jatropha, said: "No one will buy jatropha. People said if you have a plantation then surely you have a good market. But we didn't see such a market. I threw the seeds away."

The Ecologist cites land evictions in India and people being forced to grow jatropha in Burma as particularly problematic. You can see The Ecologist report at http://bit.ly/cOtWf9

I bring you The Independent report below:

Seeds of discontent: the 'miracle' crop that has failed to deliver

A new 'ethical' biofuel is damaging the impoverished people it was supposed to help\

By Cahal Milmo and Andrew Wasley

A "miracle" plant, once thought to be as the answer to producing renewable biofuels on a vast scale, is driving thousands of farmers in the developing world into food poverty, a damning report concludes today.

Five years ago jatropha was hailed by investors and scientists as a breakthrough in the battle to find a biofuel alternative to fossil fuels that would not further impoverish developing countries by diverting resources away from food production.

Jatropha was said to be resistant to drought and pests and able could grow on land that was unsuitable for food production. But researchers have found that it has increased poverty in countries including India and Tanzania. 

Millions of the plants have been grown in anticipation of rich returns, only for growers to be hit by poor yields, conflict over land and a lack of infrastructure to process the oil-rich seeds.

Oil giant BP, which planned to spend almost £32m on a joint venture to set up jatropha plantations, has now pulled out and the charity ActionAid today warns that jatropha needs to be cultivated on prime food-growing land to produce significant yields.

According to one estimate, up to one million hectares of jatropha – an area equivalent to Devon and Cornwall combined – are being cultivated around the globe, despite little evidence that it can produce enough oil to make the crop commercially sustainable.

Read the full report at http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/tim-rice-the-growing-concerns-about-jatropha-1899531.html

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