Friday, March 16, 2007

An interview with Al Hilal Hamdi, chairman of National Biofuel Development Team

This morning I got a chance to make a phone interview with Al Hilal Hamdi, chairman of the National Team for Biofuel Development on the latest issues surrounding the biofuel issue.

Q: What's the latest on biofuel development?
A: Today, Indonesia and Brazil will sign biofuel development cooperation in plantation and research and development. Brazil has been considered a success in biofuel development. Can you imagine the country has 17 million KL capacity at the moment and they're planning to establish 86 news plants. We need to learn from them.
Q: I believe the main focus will be on sugar cane?
A: You're right. It's funny that Brazil told us actually they got the seed from Papua sometime 500 years ago. I didn't know that before.
Q: Market is there, the land also available, but land acquisition is the main problem for massive plantation projects to support our biofuel drive. How to tackle the issue?
A: Last week, all governors from Kalimantan asked for additional forest concession for plantation, but minister of forestry rejected that because there are so many forest concession have been awarded for conversion to plantation, but only few that have been planted. Imagine that in East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan alone, almost 6 million hectares of forest area has been released for commercial plantation but only 250,000 hectares that have been planted. We need to be careful.
Q: So, why not use the existing neglected area?
A; Well, that's our priority at the moment. Next Monday, officials from related ministries would discuss the issue. Government is preparing legal audit and legal compliance on the license given. We're thinking of revoking their licenses and give it to new investors who seriously want to develop plantation.
Q: How about local administrations? Are they supportive enough?
A: Papua is the most supportive. Merauke regency administration, for example, have awarded area license to Sinar Mas, Genting Group, and others for around 1 million hectares. But it's pending approval of forest concession from Minister of Forestry.
Q: But there is risk of investors only want to harvesting the trees and leaving the area emptied. Environmentalists have huge concern on this issue, especially when dealing with big groups?
A: That's why we're focusing on areas that have no more trees. It's more productive to have palm oil plantation than timber plantation at the moment. Income from one hectare of timber plantation would only USD2,500 in five years, while palm plantation could make the same amount in one year only.
Q: How about investors?
A: I just got information that Sinopec and Genting Biofuel will join forces for a biofuel project here. Genting already own 80,000 hectares through its subsidiary Asiatic Group. Overall, investors are upbeat.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is sounds to be a very good project for Indonesia. However, the practises by RAPP, Sinar Mas, Torganda, Genting and the like in Sumatra have been always a major irresponsible destruction. They enjoyed all the dollars, invested massively outside the country, cut all the trees and devoted dozen million dollars to official.The local people ? Who care. Money can buy everything in this corrupted nation. We need to redesign the whole concept for better Indonesia.

March 18, 2007 8:57 PM  

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