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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        17  January 2011

Thai palm oil-biodiesel project

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The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) and Bangchak Petroleum Plc plan to grow palm oil for biodiesel.

The state bank will allow the oil company to lease 1,200 rai of degraded tangerine orchards in Nakhon Nayok province to grow palm oil for its biodiesel production facility at Ayutthaya. The two agencies are scheduled to sign an agreement January 20 covering a 50 million baht loan for Bangchak to develop the site while the bank charges a low rental fee of 700 baht per rai per year.

The agreement helps the bank meet its goal to increase green lending and helps indebted farmers, while Bangchak gains a supply source and can develop a corporate social responsibility program. BAAC president Luck Wajananawat said the bank had more than 150,000 rai of land it could use as palm fields if needed.

Most of the soil is highly acidic as the degraded tangerine orchards in Ongkharak and Thanyaburi were owned by BAAC clients that defaulted on debts.

The 1,200-rai site will also house an intensive palm oil learning centre, including a research unit and cultivation site where experts can assist growers to use advanced technology and certain palm breeds to ensure high productivity.

With proper cultivation, productivity could rise to four tonnes per rai, above the average of 2.82 tonnes of palm oil in Thailand in 2010.

Bangchak president Anusorn Sangnimnuan said the project would help about 6,000 indebted farmers to grow palm oil, a higher-value crop with strong market potential.

He added that growing oil palm on the outskirts of Bangkok was a prudent method to prevent floods from ravaging the capital because the tree is a thirsty crop that needs proper water management for a high yield.

Bangchak is considering building an oil extraction facility on the compound once 50,000 rai are farmed there, providing a volume of 200,000 tonnes of palm oil a year.

The company's subsidiary, Bangchak Biofuel in Bang Pa-In near Ayutthaya, can produce 300,000 litres of biodiesel per day, but it has a contract with farmers in Nakhon Nayok and Ayutthaya. Another prominent green loan by BAAC includes a tree bank project where loans will be extended for planting new trees. Mr Luck said private companies could take part under the bank's Tree-back Securities by depositing money and receiving a lower interest rate than general clients, with the difference financing the tree bank.

As of last August, 597 communities were taking part in the project, planting 2,905,700 trees, mostly woody perennials such as padauk, iron wood, and parawood.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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