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September 25, 2009

Chinese ethanol demand lifts Vietnam cassava exports

CASSAVAVIET to follow up Hanoi, Sept 23 - Vietnam's cassava chip exports are soaring because of demand from China to make ethanol and earnings for the whole of 2009 could be $800 million, nearly double those in the first eight months, state-run Vietnam Television said. China, which needs to import up to 6.5 million tonnes of cassava chips per year for biofuel and feed production, has also been cooperating with Laos, the Philippines and Nigeria on planting cassava in those countries, VTV said on Wednesday.

Vietnam's cassava exports from January to August jumped 69.5 percent from a year before to $436 million, government data shows. China buys about 90 percent of the cassava exported from its southern neighbour.

Vietnam's cassava output this year could fall to 8.6 million tonnes from 9 million in 2008 as the planting area could fall 6 percent to 510,000 hectares (1.26 million acres), government reports show.

Setting aside 4.4 million tonnes for domestic consumption, Vietnam still has up to 5 million tonnes of cassava available for export in 2009 thanks to a large stock carried over from last year, the broadcast said.

It quoted the trade ministry as saying foreign firms' demand for cassava on e-commerce sites was stronger than that for rice.

But rapid development of cassava production has raised environmental concerns because the soil used for cassava plants becomes exhausted after two or three crops and planting often triggers deforestation.

The government has yet to announce any policy to curb cassava plantations. Vietnam has also been building biofuel plants using the produce as feedstock.

Source: Reuters

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