Zanu PF wants farmers to grow jatropha for fuel

THE Mugabe government says farmers should grow jatropha seed in the coming 2007/2008 farming season in a bid to end the fuel shortages that have haunted the nation since 1999.

The government through the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) says the jatropha seed will

be planted on about 5000 hectares in each province to ease fuel shortages next year.

In a notice, the struggling state parastatal says it will assist new farmers with ready to plant seedlings once their land is prepared for the 2007/2008 agricultural season.

“The ultimate aim is to produce bio-diesel to substitute ten percent of our national diesel requirements. To this end 40 000 hectares of jatropha has to be established this year…,” read in part the NOCZIM notice on Friday.

This is yet another clear admission that the government has failed to solve the fuel crisis which has haunted the country since 1999 due to foreign currency shortages and the severing of lines of credit by foreign banks and lenders.

An ambitious programme pursued since 2005 by the government to produce bio-diesel from the oil rich jatropha curcas seed where communal farmers have been contracted to grow the jatropha tree has failed to yield any results.

Experts have warned that massive investment in expensive refineries and conversion plants would be needed before the dream of producing bio-diesel could be realized.

Zimbabwe has faced crippling fuel shortages since the end of 1999 when the country’s Western backers pulled out in protest at the government’s economic mismanagement.

Cash-strapped NOCZIM has struggled to meet demand, forcing the government to scrap the parastatal’s monopoly around 2002.

However, fuel shortages resurfaced in June following the reinstatement of NOCZIM’S monopoly after the imposition of a freeze on prices by the President Robert Mugabe led government

Zimbabwe consumes 3, 5 million litres of diesel, three million litres of petrol and five million litres of Jet A1 daily. It needs about US$130 million a month to import fuel- CAJ News.

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