27/02/2008 (Sify.com), Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia is closely examining cultivation of jatropha, a bio-diesel feedstock, Government officials said. Intercropping with oil palm is seen as the way to promote this new source of oil. Currently, about three million hectares are under oil palm cultivation in this country.
Rising palm oil prices have begun to drive the bio-diesel industry to seek cheaper alternatives. Jatropha is seen as an important feedstock, the plantation of which will enjoy a long life running to 40-50 years.
Within Malaysia, the progress of the bio-diesel programme is stalled because of high prices. For bio-diesel producers, margins are squeezed.
Palm oil prices issue
High palm oil prices have already generated considerable consternation within the country and outside. Escalation of the currently muted food versus fuel debate may negatively impact palm oil in future, it is feared.
Sustainability is already a hotly debated topic. Critics of palm oil raise issues of deforestation and loss of habitat for wildlife. Seeing this as motivated campaign, the Malaysian government and industry together have begun to counter the allegations. As first of a series of steps, a conservation fund for wildlife has been established.
Malaysian officials have also hit out against the concerted efforts of lobbies in Europe and other places to denigrate plam oil. A senior official pointed out that while Malaysia promotes sustainability (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was set up in 2004), there was no such efforts on part of soyabean and rapeseed producers.
On the other hand, genetically-modified soyabean did not fall within the definition of sustainability, the official said. Obviously, there is a case for all oils and oilseeds producers to work together to ensure sustainable agriculture.
Bursa Malaysia (BMD) will soon launch a US dollar-denominated crude palm oil futures contract.
The exchange is currently finetuning the ‘soft infrastructure’ and is keen to have a successful launch of the derivatives contract, an exchange official asserted.