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   Failure of Jatropha commercial cultivation in Sarawak

News on the commercial cultivation of Jatropha or buah Jarak in Sarawak has been quiet. Very quiet. When Jatropha was introduced in Sarawak a couple of years ago, there were big news with local nursery promoting the benefits of Jatropha. Even some top level ministers help in the lobbying. Some organizations promised buy-back facilities, offers courses and consultancy, discounted cost for Jatropha seedlings, and many other things.

But two main elements were missing from these promotions and lobbying. 1). The Ministry of Argiculture keep silent on it (meaning, no official endorsement that Jatropha is a good cash crops) and 2). Those organizations never setup their Jatropha oil extraction mills.

Without mills, you can't process the Jatropha seeds to extract the oil. In the end, farmers who joined in the programme earlier made their first harvest but unable to sell the seeds. Because there is to mill to process it. Those orgranizations usually gave lame excuses saying that the mill has not been constructed or more funds are needed to built the mills.

At the end of the day, it is just another Jatropha scam that hit Sarawak. Those organizations just want to make a quick money selling the Jatropha seedlings. They have no intention to process the seeds. Imagine those farmers who spend thousands of Ringgit to buy those seedlings and are now left with rotten seeds. Most of those Jatropha trees are bearing fruits but left to rot and unmaintained.

About Jatropha (buah Jarak)

Jatropha is a genus of approximately 175 succulent plants, shrubs and trees (some are deciduous, like Jatropha curcas L.), from the family Euphorbiaceae. The name is derived from (Greek iatros = physician and trophe = nutrition), hence the common name physic nut. The mature small trees bear separate male and female flowers, and do not grow very tall. As with many members of the family Euphorbiaceae, Jatropha contains compounds that are highly toxic.

The hardy Jatropha is resistant to drought and pests, and produces seeds containing 27-40% oil (average: 34.4%). The remaining press cake of jatropha seeds after oil extraction could also be considered for energy production.

Goldman Sachs recently cited Jatropha curcas as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production. However, despite its abundance and use as an oil and reclamation plant, none of the Jatropha species have been properly domesticated and, as a result, its productivity is variable, and the long-term impact of its large-scale use on soil quality and the environment is unknown.