Monday, March 5, 2007

Taiwan: Gov't moves to increase biofuel crops acreage


Gov't moves to increase biofuel crops acreage


The government has decided to increase the acreage dedicated to biofuel
crops -- soybean, rape, sunflower, and sweet potato -- from 1,721
hectares in 2006 to 4,550 hectares this year, the Council of Agriculture
(COA) announced yesterday.

COA officials said that 3,280 hectares will be used in soybean
cultivation, 1,240 hectares will go to raising sunflowers, and an
additional 30-hectares of cropland is designated to raise sweet potatoes
on a trial basis. Soybeans, rape seed, and sunflowers can be turned into
ethanol used in biodiesel, while sweet potatoes have been chosen to
supply the ethanol to be blended with gasoline during manufacturing trials.

The government started its "biofuel development project" two years ago,
in an attempt to reduce reliance on imported fuels. According to a
recent survey released by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, of 2006
national energy supplies -- amounting to the equivalent of 138 million
kiloliters of oil -- 98.22 percent was imported.

Officials explained that some 220,000 hectares of farmland around the
island are left fallow every year, the COA has thus decided to utilize
this land to produce biofuel-related raw materials, for which demand is

At the beginning of the project in early 2005, agricultural agencies
chose three 30 hectare experimental sites -- in northern, central and
southern Taiwan respectively -- for cultivation of soybean, rape, and

The land involved was expanded to 1,721 hectares in 2006 -- located in
counties of Yunlin, Chiayi, and Tainan -- and the produce has been
entirely used in biodiesel production.

Officials noted that the scale of the project not only expanded in terms
of cropland utilized, but also in the number of counties involved --
Taipei County and Taoyuan County have decided to join, rising the number
from three to five.

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