Agriculture World

PM emphasizes shifting focus towards Palm Cultivation

Abhijeet Banerjee
Abhijeet Banerjee
palm

In line with “Aatmnirbhar Bhaarat” program, India’s Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi had appealed last week to the farmers in North-East States, to focus more on cultivation of palm, with the sole objective to make India self-sufficient in edible oils. The Prime Minister emphasized over setting up oil palm missions in State governments of North East India, in order to promote cultivation of the Palm oilseed. The industry has welcomed the Prime Minister's suggestion, and associated this move with the Atmanirbhar Bharat business model.

Good Potential to increase palm cultivation in NE India:

India annually imports huge quantity of palm oil, thereby shelling out lots of dollars from its reserve. This is not a good sign if the country wants to improve its GDP in longer run. Indian imports of edible oils are approximately 15 million tonnes annually. This is nearly 68 per cent of edible oils of the country’s annual requirements of about 22 million tonnes. Out of 15 million tonnes of edible imports, palm oil imports account for nearly 60 per cent or about 9 million tonnes every year. There is huge scope for increasing area towards cultivation of this oilseed in the North eastern states. According to estimates the North-East region has about 2,80,000 ha of land, supportive for oil palm plantations. Only 30,000 ha are covered so far – hence the opportunity is quite big.

In order to support Atmanirbhar Bharat programme for reducing dependency from palm oil imports, the Prime Minister had appealed to farmers of Manipur and North East states to scale up Oil palm plantation. In global market, largest consumer and importer of palm oil is India and domestic demand for the edible oil is expected to increase by roughly 100% in another 10 years. So the supply deficit will not be offset by merely increasing the import quantity since it adversely affects the country’s balance sheet. Rather production needs to be increased over the years for attaining self sufficiency.

A welcome move, but planned expansion is crucial: Government of India’s views to expand oil palm cultivation in India is a welcome move surely. If the government is actually successful in meeting the targeted objectives then it will be a real boost for the country’s economy and it will be also in line with the “Atmanirbhar” program. India is definitely a leading consumer of palm oil hence for the North Eastern states there will be a ready market which they can tap comfortably. But one aspect is very crucial here and which is a planned expansion – not just an aggressive push toward domestic oil palm cultivation, at the expense of disturbing the eco-system.

One should note that if palm cultivation in India increases aggressively without much planning, and only with short-term economic goals, it will raise then biodiversity problems. This means that this step may be harmful for ecologically sustainable traditional land-use management systems of the growers, on the whole. Therefore it will be wise to adopt environmentally sustainable practices during the expansion process, and with practically feasible goals.

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