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Reliance to take up large-scale jatropha farming

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Vinod Mathew

Mumbai, Oct. 26

THE Reliance group's arm, Reliance Life Sciences (RLS), is planning to scale up its jatropha plantation to a few thousand acres in a couple of months' time.

Currently, RLS has a 50-acre pilot project called Samalkot Farms at Kakinada, close to its Krishna-Godavari offshore gas fields, where the hybrid jatropha plants are at the flowering stage.

While the fresh land will come up largely from near their own manufacturing facilities in various parts of the country, RLS is also in talks with Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan Governments, to get access to land for contract farming.

Mr K.V. Subramaniam, Senior Executive Vice- President, Reliance Industries Ltd, told Business Line that the plan was to take up the land under jatropha cultivation on two fronts a few thousand acres of land adjoining the RIL manufacturing facilities in places such as Jamnagar and simultaneously, go in for contract farming arrangement with independent farmers in various parts of the country.

"Our bio-fuel initiative can get really big, provided the State Governments facilitate access to land for contract farming. Reliance Life Science is planning to approach more State Governments with this in mind. We are focusing over the next 6-12 months at the potential of growing jatropha in various climatic zones. Our attempt at Kakinada is to demonstrate on the ground the yield potential," said Mr Subramaniam, who also heads Reliance Life.

The Reliance game plan, unlike the Union Government policy on bringing semi-arid and marginal land under jatropha cultivation, is to persuade farmers to go in for high investment-high yield module, where fertigation (fertilisation through drip irrigation) and high density cultivation would hold the key.

"The Kakinada pilot is a success and we need to make an early call on scaling up operations. The idea is to get the right mix of tissue culture saplings into the plantations, as only then will pricing modules make any sense. If we get it right up to the seed stage, oil extraction and blending with diesel from our refinery as well as selling through the Reliance retail outlets becomes a formality. Even if there is a reversal in the crude price cycle, this integrated model will ensure the project's viability," he said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 27, 2005)
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