WA National Party wants Ord River palm oil trial

The Western Australian National Party want the State Government to establish an experimental palm oil plantation in the Ord River valley. Party leader Brendon Grylls said several varieties of palm oil clones needed to be trialled over three to five years to find a species that could thrive in the region.

Palm oil is a major feedstock in global biodiesel production and the potential for oil plantations to be a economic agricultural pursuit in the Ord Valley must not be overlooked.

Experts tell us a 10 to 20 hectare irrigated trial plot funded by the State Government could provide the species and data bank needed to support a commercial industry.

Global demand for palm oil over the past 18 months had resulted in a price rise from $400 per tonne to around $880 a tonne, forcing Australia’s largest biodiesel facility in Darwin to hunt for alternative feedstock such as Jatropha oil from India and Asia.

Mr Grylls said if trials in Kununurra were successful the Ord Valley might provide biodiesel companies and investors with the opportunity to establish trickle-irrigated plantations and produce large tonnages of Australian palm oil.

While strict land use rules would apply, Australian-produced palm oil would not have the adverse environmental consequences associated with clearing tropical jungle and teak forests in Asian countries.

As regular readers would know I’m not a supporter of palm oil as a biodiesel feedstock because of the deforestation palm oil plantations are causing in the tropical countries to Australia’s North. If we can grow our own palm oil in the Ord River Valley in a sustainable manner then I would see that as a positive step forward and I hope this trial goes ahead, particularly considering palm oil has many more uses than just biodiesel. However, I do wonder how long it would take to grow a palm plantation to the point where it is productive and whether Ord River farmers would be prepared to take the risk of planting a crop that may fall from favour by the time it is ready to be harvested.

Source: WA Nationals via North Queensland Register


One Response

  1. The crop also provides a natural way of making soap, which would reduce the requirement for fossil-fuel oil and the pollution from laundries.

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