3/30/2005 Financial Express - The government, with a view to curtailingdependence of vegetable oils, has geared up to promote massive cultivationof palm oil in the country. According to an official document, it hasnoted slow progress in cultivation of oil palm since the launch of theprogramme for Eighth Plan period. The government has expressed concernover forex outgo of about $ 1,800 million a year on account of vegetableoil imports.
The oil yield from fresh fruit branches of palm is higher by 10 to 15times than that from oilseeds, hence the government feels thatencouragement of oil palm cultivation can reduce dependence on imports. Inthe 10th Plan period, which has begun from 2004-05, it has been decided tocover an additional area of 50,000 hectare. A target of an additionalcoverage of 70,000 hectare in the 11th Plan has been fixed in advance. Acentral outlay of Rs 50 crore has been made exclusively for promoting oilpalm cultivation in the 10th Plan.
Three seed gardens have been set up in Andhra Pradesh, two in Kerala andone in Karnataka to supply planting materials. Under UNDP project a seedgarden has been set up in Pedavegi in West Godavari district in AndhraPradesh. Navbharat Seeds has set up a seed garden in Lakshmipuram in inAndhra Pradesh. Another seed garden in Andhra Pradesh is Rajahmundry. Twoseed gardens in Kerala are at Thodupuzha and CPCRI, Palode. The sole seedgarden in Karnataka is at Taraka. These seed gardens are assisted underthe central programme.
According to an official document, out of the total identified area of80,000 hectare in 10 states and Andaman & Nicobar Islands, only 44,788hectare are under oil palm cultivation. At present oil palm cultivation isbeing undertaken in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa,Gujarat, Tripura, Orissa, Assam, Mizoram and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.The official document noted that an area of 62,732 hectare was at a pointof time. But due to various factors farmers uprooted the cultivation inabout 17,944 hectare areas in most of the states except in Maharashtra(where plantation was done before the launch of the central scheme) andAndaman & Nicobar Islands. Thus the total area coverage under oil palm nowstands at 44,788 hectare. Prior to the launch of the central programme inthe 8th Plan, about 8,585 hectare was covered under oil palm cultivation.
The main reasons for slow progress in oil palm cultivation is the lack ofbackward linkages by the industry in purchase of the perishable FFBs, lackof adequate extension services and drought conditions in the recent years.There is also a reluctance of farmers in taking up the crop which has agestation period of 3 to 4 years.