The ethanol solution
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
THE interest shown by a Chinese company in producing ethanol here is
welcome but warrants further investigation.
Attempts have been made in the past - beginning with the Alliance
Government to produce ethanol here using sugar cane or tavioka (cassava).
This most recent attempt appears to entail the conversion of vast
swathes of sugar cane fields into tavioka plantations.
It has been touted as a solution to the land problem in the cane belt
and a revenue earner for the indigenous people.
But let us not be carried away by these grand suggestions in our haste
to resolve inter-racial relations.
This country produces close to 500,000 tonnes of molasses each year as a
by-product of sugar.
Much of this molasses is shipped overseas for a pittance. The low sale
price is made worse by the high cost of transportation.
It would make more sense to keep this commodity on shore for use in
In this way, money could be saved on shipping costs.
It is common knowledge that close to 40 per cent of the cane farms
produce around 60 per cent of the sugar manufactured in Fiji.
These farms must be identified and helped to maximise annual output of
The remaining 40 per cent need not be turned over to tavioka.
The farms can be converted to vegetable production centres to boost
production of food needed in the tourism industry.
Landowners can then plant tavioka on land which is not currently in use.
Such a project would ensure that most, if not all, the land in the
country was put to good use.
Local production of ethanol would lead to a reduction in imports of fuel
and lead to greater employment.
Everyone would benefit.
At the same time, however, there is a need to point out to the
landowners that tavioka sold at around $0.60 a kilogram will not be the
solution to their economic woes. It is only a start.
True salvation from economic slavery will only come about when the
indigenous people decide to put their land to use in order to educate
their children at the highest possible level.
Real satisfaction will come when they turn their backs on State handouts
and forge into the agricultural sector with vigour and purpose.
It is no easy task. This exercise will require commitment, redeployment
of savings and resources from the church and vanua to personal development.
When this happens, the indigenous people will realise that only through
their own had work can they claim ownership of this land.
Study ethanol plan: Province
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
THE proposed construction of an ethanol producing plant is a good idea
but it must be looked at carefully, says Tailevu Provincial Council
chairman Josefa Serulagilagi.
The Tailevu Province was one of several provinces mentioned by the
Ministry of Agriculture as areas where large scale cassava planting
could be undertaken.
He said whatever cassava farming was done in the province was carried
out on a subsistence basis.
"It is important for infrastructure to be there so that areas are
accessible," said Mr Serulagilagi.
"There was a big chunk of land in Tailevu which has become accessible
recently because roads were constructed there."
He cited Vatukarasa and Tonia villages, saying there were other villages
in the province that had a lot of unused land that could not be accessed
because there were no proper roads.
Mr Seruilagilagi said all he had heard about the ethanol plant was what
had been published in the media.
"It is a good idea but should be looked at carefully as those in the
villages will want a better price than what they are getting for their
cassava at the market.
"If the price (of the cassava) is there, then I am sure they (farmers)
will be for it and plant cassava.
"However, government has to take the lead role and decide whether we
have the capacity (to produce cassava) or if there is unused land the
facilities should be there."
Attempts to get comments from Serua Provincial Council chairman Atunaisa
Lacabuka were unsuccessful yesterday.
Last week, a Chinese trade delegation suggested a $40m plant.
Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts: http://pacbiofuel.blogspot.com/