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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pilot jatropha project successful: company

Pilot jatropha project successful: company

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Mong Reththy Company set to invest millions in Stung Treng

TRACEY SHELTON

Sat Samy, minister in charge of alternative energy, shows off jatropha nuts.

THE Mong Reththy Co said it will invest in more than 100,000 hectares of jatropha plantations next year after the success of a pilot project in Stung Treng province.

"Our project, conducted on six hectares of land, shows that this is a good crop for Cambodia," company chief Mong Reththy told the Post Monday.

He said the pilot crop produced eight tonnes of oil per hectare, adding that the oil sells for as much as US$720 per tonne overseas.

Jatropha, a thorny, toxic hedge, produces nuts from which oil can be extracted to produce bio-fuel and other products.

"We hope this crop will become a major source of bio-fuel, animal feed and fertiliser in Cambodia," Mong Reththy said, adding that exports could bring millions of dollars in profits.

The Mong Reththy Co signed a joint venture agreement with London-based D1 Oils Plc in 2007 to plant jatropha on 100,000 hectares of land in Stung Treng. The agreement was conditional on the success of the pilot program. The company is to receive US$400 million in development funds to include a bio-fuel factory in the province. Mong Reththy said he has also partnered with a South Korean firm to assist in planting the crops. He estimated that tens of thousands of workers will be needed.

Long Phall, deputy governor of Stung Treng province, welcomed the possibility of new crops and a bio-fuel factory. "We will have employment for more farmers and a factory for them to sell their crops," he said.

Cambodia's government has been championing biofuels - specifically jatropha - for more than eight years now.

Officials cite potential benefits ranging from insulating Cambodia from the vagaries of the international oil market to providing rural populations with cheap, environmentally friendly electricity and a new cash crop to bolster the agricultural sector.

"Renewable energy has the full support of the government and the prime minister," Sat Samy, minister in charge of alternative energy, told the Post in an earlier interview. "This is for our future: protect the environment and give electricity to the next generation of Cambodians."

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