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August 03, 2011

The Extraordinary Collapse of Jatropha as a Global Biofuel

The “extraordinary collapse of Jatropha as a biofuel” appears to be due to “an extreme case of a well intentioned top down climate mitigation approach, undertaken without adequate preparation and ignoring conflict of interest, and adopted in good faith by other countries, gone awry bringing misery to millions of poorest people across the world”.

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In 2003, the Planning Commission of India decided to introduce mandatory biofuel blending over increasingly larger parts of the country with a target of 30% by 2020. The Planning Commission pushed for Jatropha as it was considered to be high, early yielding, nonbrowsable and requiring little irrigation and even less management. Now 85% of the Indian Jatropha farmers have stopped.

Research on Jatropha planting in Tanzania found the net present value of a five-year investment in Jatropha plantation was negative with a loss of US$ 65 per ha on lands with yields of 2 tons/ha of seeds and only slightly beneficial at US$9 per ha with yields of 3 tons when the average expected Jatropha seed yield on poor barren soils is only 1.7 to 2.2 tons/ha.

NBF has written positively about Jatropha before. It is basically a weed that people thought could grow on land not useful for farming to make a lot of biofuel.



Jatropha was never considered economically important enough for domestication; as a result, seed and oil productivity is highly variable.

Others followed into the Jatropha Fiasco
In 2006, China decided to meet 15% of its transportation energy needs by 2020 and, following India’s example, focused on Jatropha, with plans to raise it on more than 1 million ha of marginal lands.

By 2008, Jatropha had been planted on more than an estimated 900,000 ha, of which 85% was in Asia, 13% in Africa and the rest in Latin America.

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