Villagers forced to buy Jatropha seeds at high price

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Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.) 12 June 2008

By Hseng Khio Fah

Junta’s local authorities are forcing people in Shan State to buy Jatropha curcas seeds at higher prices for plantation during rainy season, according to reliable sources.

Villages in Kengtung township, eastern Shan State have been forced to buy Jatropha seeds since April. Each village tract was ordered to buy at least 12-15 tang (tang= 54 liters). The price of the seeds is 45,000 kyat ($39) per tang. If there is any village tract does not have enough fund, village headmen must collect cash from the villagers.

“The authorities said every household must buy the seeds,” according to a local village who requested for anonymity.

“We were pressured to cultivate it [Jatropha] every year. But, they [authorities] don’t buy when the crops are ripe. We still have old crops. Again, they told us to sow it, each person from each household must join [Jatropha curcas] plantation. If we can’t go, we have to hire a person at the rate of Kyat 1,500 (US$ 1.31) per day to join plantation on behalf of us,” said another villager from Kengtung township.

“I don’t know why the government is so crazy about Jatropha plantation. We have never seen the advantages of it.”

Civilians in Lang Khurh township, southern Shan State are also being forced by local authorities to buy Jatropha seeds for cultivation. Each household must grow two cans of Jatropha seeds, according to local sources.

“We can’t complain anything. We just have to do as they [authorities] say.  They don’t care what people are saying,” said a resident in Nawng Long.

The military regime in 2005 started a massive program to grow bio-fuel crops with the direction of Sen-Gen Than Shwe in order to produce bio-diesel. But most of the bio-fuel crop plantations have failed.

“The reason that they [authorities] don’t buy Jatropha crops back from villagers is maybe the quality is poor. It is because of poor cultivation methods. If Jatropha oil is not good, the diesel fuel produced can block fuel lines and filters and even damage engines. To produce fuel not only the fruit must be good, they must also have bio-fuel refinement plants,” said Khaing Dhu Wan, director of Network for Environment and Economic Development (NEED) based in Chiang Mai.

Moreover, the ecological environments in some parts of Burma do not favor Jatropha curcas plantation, resulting in poor quality cultivation and insufficient quantity, he added.

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