Fiji’s biofuel program is mostly in pilot stage with some commercial interest and exclusively focuses on deriving biofuel from coconut, jatropha and pongamia. Other feed stocks that have attracted interests from stakeholder include sugarcane, maize, cassava, palm, dilo, algae based biofuels and cellulosic biofuels. The status of the main biofuel feedstocks are outlined below:
Coconut is currently the main feedstock for biofuel production in the country. However, the production of coconut is generally declining in the country. The total area under coconut in 1991 was 46,764 hectares, this number declined to 15,009 hectares in 2009. Currently, the coconut cultivation in the country is focused around Eastern division and in the Northern divisions. The Cakaudrove province is the biggest producer and home to more than 60% of coconut plantation area.
The major decline in the area planted has been largely a consequence of natural disasters (cyclones and drought), expiry of land leases, industrial developments, low yield (25 nuts per tree per year), high transportation costs and low profitability due to unfavorable market prices. These factors as well as labour required led to farmers losing interest in this industry. The coconut decline reached its worse scenario after the Tropical Cyclone Winston in February 2016.
The only Pongamia plantation in Fiji was owned by the ‘Biofuels International’. The company planted Pongamia in 300 acres of land and eventually (as per business plans) plans to expand to 100,000 hectares. The company had planted 140,000 trees in the plantation site, of which ~50,000 survive (remaining were lost to fire).
Jatropha is native to Fiji, the major use of the tree is in supporting vanilla trees. Jatropha test plantation site exists in Wainigata Research Station. Agriculture department’s local office have been collecting seeds from the site for productivity analysis, but no further details are available on the intervention.
Palm in not cultivated for commercial purposes in Fiji. A Malaysia based company has displayed interest in developing palm based biodiesel project in the country. As on July 2015, the company has already secured land lease in the Western division for starting a nursery for palm seedlings. It will take another one year to raise the seedlings and additional 2.5-3 years before the palm plantations are mature enough for harvesting.
Calophyllum Inophyllum (known as Dilo in Fijian) is a native plant in Fiji that bears spherical fruit with seeds that contain high oil content. There has been research done on using Dilo as a biofuel internationally but there is little information available on the local species and habitat. Dilo is a plant that will be studied further for its potential as a biofuel.
Sugarcane & Molasses
Sugarcane is the most important agriculture crops supporting the most important industry (sugar) in the country and have been considered as potential feedstock along with molasses for ethanol production. Once a backbone for the Fiji economy, sugarcane production has declined by around 34% from a total of 3,380,000 ton in 1991 to 2,197,950 ton in 2009. The total area under sugarcane has decreased from 112,192 hectares in 1991 to 57,177 hectares in 2009. Over 50% of the total production was from the Mana variety. Sugar production is concentrated in five provinces of the country and Ba province being the biggest.