Oil palm cultivation scheme gets tepid response in Gujarat

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Ahmedabad | Published: June 4, 2019 12:19:40 AM

Cultivation of oil palm trees in Gujarat has not achieved the desired results in the absence of infrastructure for processing oil palm fruit, said a senior official with the state agriculture department. Requesting anonymity, the official said that the failure of NMOOP in Gujarat, where the coastline is almost 1,600 km, was due to lack of holistic approach.

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Though efforts are being made to increase cultivation area of oil palm trees in Gujarat under National Mission of Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP) in a bid to reduce import of palm oil, the central government-promoted scheme is getting lacklustre response in the state, although it has the country’s longest coastline.

Cultivation of oil palm trees in Gujarat has not achieved the desired results in the absence of infrastructure for processing oil palm fruit, said a senior official with the state agriculture department. Requesting anonymity, the official said that the failure of NMOOP in Gujarat, where the coastline is almost 1,600 km, was due to lack of holistic approach.

“There has to be a proper mechanism of processing and marketing to support harvesting of oil palm fruits, which is completely missing in the state,” he said, adding that what is compounding the problem is lack of coordination between state and central agriculture departments to define role of agencies like Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation (GAIC) for post harvest activities.

Under NMOOP, farmers of as many as 12 districts of south Gujarat are being encouraged to grow oil palms, said a senior official with the state agriculture department, adding,“however, the farmers are not showing interest on the basis of their past experiences. They are finding it difficult to get buyers. In fact, there are no takers of palm oil tree fruit. Hence, they are opting for other cash crops like mango, sapota and banana.”

“Unlike other oilseeds like groundnut, cotton seed, mustard and sesame, there is no processing unit of palm oil fruit in Gujarat. The farmers have to send their yield to Goa for the purpose which is not viable,” said Gopal Patel, who tried to grow palm oil near Bharuch but is facing problem of selling palm fruits on ground zero.

Interestingly, under NMOOP, oil palm plantation has reached hardly 5,500 hectare in the past 13 years in Gujarat compared to India’s over 3.25 lakh hectare. Southern states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are doing good as cultivation area of oil palm trees have crossed 1.25 lakh hectare in each state.
India is considered the largest importer of palm oil in the world with annual import of 80-90 lakh tonne. Of the country’s total edible oil import, palm oil has nearly 60% share. Indonesia and Malaysia are two major countries from where palm oil is being imported.

Against such mammoth import, India is producing hardly two lakh tonne of palm oil annually. Hence, under NMOOP, the central government is trying hard to increase cultivation of oil palm trees in the states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Odisha, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, among others.

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