Thai palm oil trader OPG Tech Co is planning to establish a new oil palm plantation and increase biodiesel production in neighbouring Laos, due to diminishing business opportunities in Thailand.

The firm was looking into planting a 16,000ha plantation and developing it over the years to bring its biodiesel production up to 120,000l/day, wrote the Bangkok Post on 29 January.

According to OPG chair of the board Apisit Rujikeatkamjorn, the company had been planting crops in Laos over the past seven years through its subsidiary Laos Agrotech Co (LAT) and it already had a 1,600ha plantation in the country producing 30,000l/day of biodiesel.

OPG wanted to diversify its business activities to include the upstream segment of crude palm oil, but Thailand lacked the necessary opportunities for the expansion due to limited land available for plantations, Apisit said.

The LAT research team had also developed a new oil palm variety, called Lao Viang I, that was tolerant of the drier weather conditions of landlocked Laos.

“We plan to develop a second generation of Lao Viang I, with a tentative budget of US$1M. The commercial plantation should make it to market by 2020 with more than 100,00 sprouted palm trees,” Apisit told Bangkok Post.

The Lao government had also granted FAT approvals to operate as an oil palm crusher, biodiesel producer and a provider of microcredits to plantations.

According to Apisit, the Lao government was supportive of biodiesel, particularly of the B10 blend, which has a 10% biodiesel content.

In addition to its biofuels business, OPG owned the Thai cooking oil brands Kham and Mungkorn, which had been on the market since 2015.

It previously also operated as an original equipment manufacturer for an oil palm crusher in the province of Samut Prakan.

The company had diversified to produce foods and drinks to improve its standing against instability in palm oil prices, wrote Bangkok Post.