With India looking to expand footprints of palm oil plantations to reduce its dependence on import of oilseeds, the country joined hands with Malaysia in getting the latter's support in this direction. Malaysia, the world's second largest producer of palm oil after Indonesia, readily agreed to share its experience and technical know-how with India.
Both the countries agreed on basic details of cooperation in this field along with other areas of mutual interests in the farm sector during the meeting of visiting Malaysian minister Zuraida Kamaruddin with agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar at Krishi Bhawan.
"India wants to get benefitted from the vast experience of Malaysia. The move will help the country in its National Mission on Edible Oils-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) which aims to bring additional 6.50 lakh hectares of land under palm oil by 2025-26. India would need 100 million seed sprouts for this purpose," said Tomar after the meeting.
In order to reduce the country's dependence on import of oilseeds, the central government had in August last year launched NMEO-OP to augment the availability of edible oil by harnessing area expansion even as environmentalists severely criticized it saying the move would prove to be ecologically destructive. The government in its 2022-23 budget allocated Rs 900 crore for promoting palm oil.
At present only 3.70 lakh hectares (ha) of land in India is under oil palm cultivation. Oil palm produces 10 to 46 times more oil per hectare compared to other oilseed crops. Since India has to substantially depend on imports, the NMEO-OP aims to cover an additional area of 6.5 lakh hectares for oil palm till 2025-26. The scheme also targets the production of crude palm oil to go up to 11.20 lakh tons by 2025-26 and up to 28 lakh tons by 2029-30.
According to an assessment made by the ICAR’s Indian institute of Oil Palm Research (IIOPR), 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.