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September 22, 2008

UK firm plans 5,500 ha biofuels project in Tanzania

Britain's Sun Biofuels plans to grow about 5,500 hectares of the biofuel plant jatropha in Tanzania in the next 10 years, the firm's local subsidiary said on September 18. Sun Biofuels Tanzania is in the final stages of acquiring 8,000 hectares of land west of the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

Peter Auge, Sun Biofuels Tanzania's managing director, said that the company planned to plant 70 percent of that with jatropha, while the rest would be left as forest or game parks. "If we plant 1,000 hectares a year, it will take us five to six years to plant the land," Auge said on the sidelines of a regional biofuels conference. "We are almost a year away from planting. It will take us five years to plant, then it will take us five years to get into full production, so effectively we will only be getting full production in 10 years."

Soaring fossil fuel costs and concerns over carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming have led investors to turn to cleaner energy sources like biofuels. Many are focusing on Africa.

Sweden's Sekab also plans to start producing 100 million litres of ethanol a year in Tanzania by 2012 at a cost of between $200 million and $300 million. It also hopes to set up several more plantations in the country in the coming years.

Auge did not give the exact price of establishing Sun Biofuel's plantation, but he said it would cost about $1,000 per hectare -- or $5.5 million in total -- to get the farm up and running. He said his company was interested in acquiring more land in Tanzania, and that it would use its current acreage as proof that the company could take on more tracts successfully.

Sun Biofuels also operates in Ethiopia, where it has grown 1,000 hectares of jatropha and will start biofuel production in 2008/2009. The company is also active in Mozambique, where it has 5,000 hectares of land and expects to plant jatropha on 2,000 hectares beginning in November.

Sun Biofuels is majority owned by Trading Emission Plc, a London-listed renewable energy investment firm.


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