GUWAHATI, Dec 4: Consuming around 13% of the total global oil palm production, India is the world’s largest importer and 2nd largest consumer of Oil Palm amounting USD 10.17 bn in 2021-22 to the country’s exchequer.
The Mega Oil Palm Plantation Drive earlier this month across the country was aimed to create awareness and increase area under Oil Palm cultivation so as to decrease the import expenditure in the coming years.
“Without touching any forest cover, around 9 lakh ha of potential area is available and suitable in the Northeast for oil palm plantation,” said Dr Suresh Motwani, Veg Oil programme head – India, Solidaridad Network. “With a possibility of converting areas under Jhum cultivation or barren lands into oil palm plantations, it can aid reduce environmental impact while securing the livelihoods of indigenous communities,” he further added.
Solidaridad Network is involved in running sustainable oil palm programmes worldwide. With special initiatives surrounding small farm holders, the organisation has also played a critical role in developing India’s own standards for sustainable palm oil – IPOS. IPOS would provide sustainability framework for effective implementation of aambitious Oil Palm Mission of Government of India namely National Mission on Edible Oil-Oil palm (NMEO-OP) to promote oil palm cultivation for making the country Atmanirbhar in edible oils.
Highlighting the benefits for small farm holders, a peculiar situation in the region, he said that 0.26 ha of land has a potential to produce 1T Palm Oil as compared to 2 ha of land needed to produce same amount of Soybean Oil. Hence with the plantations requiring significantly less land compared to other oilseed crops, having a remarkable capacity to yield up to 8 times more oil and also enabling intercropping it has a potential to translate into economic prosperity for smallholders.
Furthermore, as per the studies conducted by The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) – Indian Institute of Oil Palm Research (IIOPR), oil palm plantations require less water compared to crops like rice, banana and sugarcane for its optimum production. Being an evergreen tree with spreading branches, it has a potential to protect soil erosion due to heavy rainfall and helps in conserving moisture due to evaporation.
“Contrary to misconceptions, modern oil palm cultivation practices are not synonymous with monoculture. As many less water intensive intercrops like pepper, ginger, cocoa etc can be grown under partial shade condition in the existing plantations, it not only enhances the environmental resilience of the cultivation but also generates additional revenue streams for farmers,” said Dr. Motwani.