Thursday, July 12, 2007

[PB] Ethanol solution still a long way


Thursday July 12, 2007

While there are calls for Fiji to go quickly into ethanol production to
counteract rising fuel prices, it may be several years before Fiji is
likely to see this project off the ground and in full production.

Ministry of Finance interim permanent secretary Peceli Vocea yesterday
said a feasibility study will have to be done first on the project.

According to him, a sub-committee on sugar met yesterday and a
presentation was given by the Fiji Sugar Corporation outlining its
strategy regarding the upgrading of the four sugar mills.

The upgrading is based on the recommendations of the Indian technical
mission team that has prepared a report which the FSC board is gradually

"Ethanol production (which uses cane juice and its by products) is on
their plan but there has to be an upgrade of the facilities first before
we reach that particular point," Vocea said last night at the First
Media Council Forum, on the topic "Time to tighten the purse strings".

"There will have to be a feasibility study done."

He says a company in India has been identified that has factories around
the world that produces ethanol.

"So we would go quickly with those recommendations implemented."

Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry acting president Swani Maharaj
highlighted that with the rise in fuel prices, ethanol production will
be a sure saviour for the country.

"The rising cost of petrol sends a strong message that Fiji needs to
take immediate steps to produce ethanol," Maharaj said.

He highlighted that biofuel will reduce Fiji's import bill, create jobs
and offer cheap alternative fuel to the public.

Maharaj pointed out that the European Union is planning to allocate part
of 220 million euro foreign aid budget for investment and technical
skills to the Asian Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries for ethanol

He suggested that the Rakiraki Mill be used for ethanol "to offset the
economic catastrophe of Emperor Gold Mines".

Maharaj says immediate action is needed to implement the ethanol project
and the private sector should be invited to invest.

"Initially, we should use existing facilities instead of incurring the
cost of building new ones.

"Once the project is feasible, other ethanol producing centres can
always be opened," he suggested.

Vocea says an amount of about 4 million Euros, equivalent to around $F9m
has been budgeted for in 2007.

He says a financing agreement has been signed with the European Union
and that the first tranche of $2m is coming through which is for clean
planting and rehabilitation.

"The Rakiraki and Labasa mills are being informed that it will be part
of the upgrading that FSC would be doing. So we ought to get the 2m euro
from the EU anytime soon."

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