Seeking to reduce India’s dependence on import of edible oils in due course, the Cabinet on Wednesday approved launch of an exclusive Mission on Palm oil — National Mission on Edible Oils – Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) — as a new centrally sponsored scheme with a special focus on the northeast region and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. A financial outlay of Rs 11,040 crore has been made for the scheme. Rs 8,844 crore would be the central share while remaining Rs.2, 196 crore would come from states.
Under this scheme, the agriculture ministry has proposed to cover an additional area of 6.5 lakh hectare (ha) for palm oil cultivation till the year 2025-26, leading to over 10 lakh ha of farm lands under palm oil. At present only 3.70 lakh ha is under oil palm cultivation.
“The production of Crude Palm Oil (CPO) is expected to go up to 11.20 lakh tones by 2025-26 and up to 28 lakh tones by 2029-30,” said agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
According to an assessment made by the ICAR’s Indian institute of Oil Palm Research (IIOPR) last year, India has 28 lakh hectares of land that can be suitable for palm oil cultivation. Nearly one-third (9 lakh hectares) of such land is available in north-east India.
Asked whether this move would not promote environmentally-damaging monoculture farming in the country, Tomar said, “The cultivation will be done only in areas which have been identified by the ICAR.”
On why the government is not looking for alternative oilseeds, the minister said, “Oil palm produces 10 to 46 times more oil per hectare compared to other oilseed crops and has a yield of around 4 tons oil per hectare. It has thus enormous potential for cultivation.”
The scheme will subsume the current National Food Security Mission-Oil Palm programmer. Under the new scheme, the central government for the first time will give a price assurance to the oil palm farmers for the Fresh Fruit Bunches from which oil is extracted by the industry. This will be known as the Viability Price.