Why attempts to boost oil palm farming may work?

Source: Business Standard

Relevance: Analysis of  National Mission on Edible Oils

Synopsis: In light of the recently announced scheme to boost production of palm oil in India, a brief look at previous such attempts, their impact and the overall issues involved with palm oil cultivation.


In order to boost domestic production of palm oil and make the country self-sufficient in the cooking medium, the government recently announced a Rs 11,000-crore National Mission on Edible Oils.

Must read: Cabinet approves implementation of National Mission on Edible Oils- Oil Palm

The target:

  • Mission plans to raise oil palm cultivation to one million hectares by 2025-26 and 1.7-1.8 million hectares by 2029-30
  • The domestic palm oil production is targeted to rise three times to 1.1 million hectares by 2025-26 under the Mission and 2.8 million tonnes by 2029-30
Present scenario
  • India consumes 10% of the total global production of palm oil
  • Import dependency: Since domestic production is not sufficient to meet the demand, India is a net importer of palm oil.
  • Demand for palm oil is driven by high consumption due to its various advantages in food industry in India
  • Most palm oil imports in India originate from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, accounting for over 90% of total imported volumes in 2019 and 2020.
Challenges with palm oil cultivation
  • Forest loss– As per estimate by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the expansion of oil palm plantations is likely to cause four million hectares (more than twice the size of Kerala) of forest loss
  • Deforestation of high biodiversity areas– Deforestation would most likely occur in high biodiversity areas such as Borneo, Papua New Guinea, Sumatra and the Congo Basin in Africa
  • Impact population of endangered wildlife– deforestation may impact populations of endangered wildlife such as Sumatran Tigers, Rhinos and Orangutans
  • Impact on human health and livelihood– forest loss can have adverse impacts on people’s health and disrupts local livelihoods.
  • Contribute to Global warming–  forest loss can lead to release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that contribute to global warming.
Previous attempts to boost production
  • TMOP: In 1991-92, the Department of Agriculture Started the Technology Mission on Oilseeds and Pulses (TMOP) in the potential states
  • OPDP: A comprehensive centrally-sponsored scheme, Oil Palm Development Programme (OPDP) was taken up during 8th and 9th Plans
  • ISOPOM: Support for oil palm cultivation was given under the Integrated Scheme of Oilseeds, Pulses, Oil Palm and Maize (ISOPOM) during 10th and 11th plan
  • OPAE: The Government of India had also supported a Special Programme on Oil Palm Area Expansion (OPAE) under RKVY during the year 2011-12 with an objective to bring 60,000 hectares under Oil Palm cultivation
  • NMOOP: The National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP) was launched during 12th plan, in which Mini Mission-II (MM-II) was dedicated to oil palm area expansion and productivity increases. It is being implemented in 13 states which includes Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Goa.
Achievements under prev initiatives
  • Area expansion under oil palm from 8,585 ha in 1991-92 to 316,600 ha by the end of 2016-17
  • Increased production of fresh fruit bunches (FFBs) and crude palm oil (CPO)

At present, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are major oil palm growing States

Why previous attempt failed?
  • High gestation period– farmers had to wait for four years for the trees in India to start yielding palm fruit bunches to give palm oil and palm kernel oil.
  • Small landholding–  Indian farmers generally have very small farm holdings which makes investment difficult.
  • Lack of private investment– corporate sector investments in oil palm are limited compared with Malaysia and Indonesia.
 Must read: Palm oil and environmental, social challenges in India

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