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Balancing Ethanol Production and Food Security



  Aug 17, 2023

Ethanol vs Food: The Trade Off


Q: What is the current situation regarding India's ethanol blending target?

A: India aimed to achieve 20% ethanol blending in fuel by 2025 but is facing challenges in arranging sufficient feedstock, particularly food grains, for ethanol production.
 

Q: Why has the supply of rice to ethanol-makers been halted?

A: The Food Corporation of India (FCI) supplied 13 lakh tonnes of rice to ethanol-makers between December 2022 and June 2023, but halted further supplies from July to conserve stocks due to concerns about food security.
 

Q: What alternatives are being considered for feedstock?

A: The Centre is considering using maize to feed ethanol distilleries, but there is a need for a broader reconsideration of the entire grain-based ethanol blending program.
 

Q: What was the initial rationale for grain-based ethanol blending?

A: The idea of grain-based ethanol blending was proposed in a NITI Aayog expert committee report in 2021 to achieve the 20% petrol blending target. It suggested using alternatives like damaged foodgrains, crop residue, maize, and surplus rice from FCI.
 

Q: What are the challenges with the surplus rice route to ethanol?

A: The assumption of FCI having surplus rice stocks annually was overly optimistic and didn't factor in contingencies like poor monsoons affecting rice availability. The program also involves subsidies to private distilleries and losses for FCI.
 

Q: What alternatives should be considered?

A: Instead of relying on food crops, the Centre should focus on ramping up the 2G route that utilizes food waste and crop residue to produce ethanol. If feedstock from such sources is limited, it's better to consider lowering blending targets in favor of food security.
 

Q: What is the overarching concern?

A: With global concerns about erratic weather patterns affecting food supplies, India should prioritize food security over aggressive green fuel targets and policy contortions.


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