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 Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani
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 Govt targets to produce bio-diesel up to three bil

BANGKOK, Apr 12 (TNA) - The Thai government plans to promote moreplantations of oil palms to increase the country's capacity of bio-dieselproduction up to three billion litres a year over the next seven years,according to Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan.

Mrs. Sudarat told TNA that the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperativeshad planned to promote more oil palm production across the country up toseven million rai (2.5 rai = 1 acre) by the year 2012.

The oil palms would then be used to produce bio-diesel, a type ofalternative energy, which could reduce Thailand's reliance on importedoil, she noted.

"The government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives,expects that the targeted seven million rai oil palm production will helpincrease the country's capacity of bio-diesel production to 8.5 millionlitres per day, or 3.1 billion litres annually, by the year 2012, whichwill not only reduce the country's reliance on imported oil, but also saveits revenue from imported oil by up to Bt35 billion", she disclosed.

The Department of Agriculture has been assigned to work out the project indetails, including the zoning of the oil palm plantations, a study oncomparative economic advantages to local farmers between oil palms andother crops and a plan on developing strong oil palm strains.

The department is due to submit its studies to the minister by the end ofApril.

According to an initial study, the targeted seven million rai of oil palmplantation will cover areas in the country's southern, eastern,northeastern and central regions.

Mrs. Sudarat conceded that part of the plantations might have to coverareas in neighbouring countries, including Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, inthe form of 'contrated farming' by which the final produce would be sentto Thailand.

Local farmers joining in the project were expected to secure more incomesof around Bt3,243 per rai, compared to what they were earning from otherless economic advantaged crops, Mrs. Sudarat said. (TNA)--E002

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