Despite huge demand for palm oil, why the the area under cultivation of palm has not increased in India?
Even though India is the fourth-largest grower of oilseeds India relies on imports to meet over 70 per cent of its vegetable oil requirements and about 60 per cent of the requirement is met through palm oil.
Measures to increase the area of cultivation of palm oil
- The government started National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP) under the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17).
- The farmers were provided training and given subsidised plant materials and input
- Private companies were invited to set up processing factories in oil palm growing areas to facilitate procurement as well as to provide agriculture extension services.
Despite the efforts why India has not achieved the self sufficiency and still dependent on imports:
- Lack of mechanisation has resulted in difficulties in harvesting. Since the trees grown very tall up to 12 metres, it makes harvesting arduous.
- High expenses towards maintenances poses viability challenges. Oil palm is not economical for small landholders and tenant farmers as there is practically no income in the first six years.
- Farmers harvest around 65 per cent of the annual yield between June and September. The earnings remain low during the lean winter months.
Even intercropping on oil palm plantations is not easy and it can be done only during the first two years until the oil palm saplings gain some height. Also Intercropping can result in lower yields of both the crops as they compete for resources. Low rainfall during the drought years makes the proposition even more expensive.