August 15, 2008

Chin: There Are Ways Tocut Fertiliser Import Bill

By Jeeva Arulampalam

THE government hopes to reduce its current chemical fertiliser import bill of RM5 billion for the oil palm industry by 30 per cent within three to five years, says Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin.

Chin said the estimated import bill had increased twofold due to higher petroleum and other commodity prices.

Last year, the import bill for 3.4 million tonnes of chemical and mineral fertilisers stood at RM2.6 billion.

"It (the bill) can be reduced by RM1.5 billion as we use more organic fertilisers and biofertilisers," Chin told reporters yesterday, after officiating at the 2008 National Seminar on Biofertiliser, Biogas and Effluent Treatment in the Oil Palm Industry, in Seri Kembangan, Selangor.

He said empty fruit bunches (EFB) and palm oil mill effluent (POME) readily found in mills were cheap and good sources for biofertiliser production.

Fertiliser makes up 50 to 60 per cent of the cost of fresh fruit bunch production.

Chin added that he wanted more palm oil millers to convert their POME into biofertiliser to not only save cost but in pursuit of environmentally sustainable practices.

"Efficient technology in oil palm wastes treatment and incorporating the clean development mechanism into these projects will further enhance the economic returns through carbon credits earned," he said in his speech.

Chin said he was awaiting feedback from participants of the two- day seminar before the government could provide further aid in terms of incentives.

Total affluent produced is 54 million tonnes per year from the 405 palm oil mills processing 80 million tonnes of fresh fruit bunch annually.

MPOB director-general Datuk Dr Mohd Basri Wahud said in his presentation that the potential production of palm based bio- fertilisers using EFB and solid dry POME would be 4.2 million tonnes annually.

MPOB estimated that the current production only amounts to 12 per cent of the palm-based bio-fertiliser potential.

As for carbon credits, MPOB chairman Datuk Sabri Ahmad said the initial investment for a 90 tonne per hour mill was RM4 million but the payback was good.

The potential carbon credits from biocomposting totalling 150,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide can provide an income of RM15 million annually.

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