National Mission for Edible Oils – Oil Palm by MOA&FW.

NMEO-OP: National Mission for Edible Oil – Oil Palm scheme was launched by the Government of India during 2014-15 and a total outlay of Rs 11,040 crore has been approved for the same. Around 35% of the vegetable oils are produced from oil palm with less than 10% of land under oil production.

National Mission for Edible Oils, Oil palm cultivation till 2020
Image Source: Document, DoA&FW. Oil Palm Cultivation up to 2020.

Why is National Mission for Edible Oils – Oil Palm needed?

Indonesia and Malaysia together supply around 85% of total edible oil across the globe and they are located at geopolitically significant locations and any geopolitical issue by China may threaten the supply of the edible oil.

According to the economic survey, to meet the domestic demand, India FY 2021-22 imported nearly 133.5 tonnes of edible oil worth INR 80,000 crores. Palm oil share constitutes around 56%, soybeans -27%, and sunflower oil 16% of total imported edible oil.

Important Features of National Mission for Edible Oils:

Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare being a nodal agency is responsible for executing and implementing the scheme- National Mission for Edible Oils.

This scheme has a special focus on the Andaman& Nicobar and North Eastern regions of the country as it has suitable weather conditions conducive for growing the palm tree.

It aims to bring an additional area of 3.28 lakh hectares under plantation for palm oil in the Northeast states/regions and 3.22 lakh hectares in the rest of the regions of India in the next 5 years from the inception of the scheme.

It is to ensure procurement through the Viability Prices for fresh fruit bunches (FFBs) to the farmers. If the price paid by the industry is below the viability price to the farmers, the Central Government is to compensate the farmers through a viability gap payment. The provision for the viability gap compensation will remain in effect till October 2037.

Objective of National Mission for Edible Oils:

  1. Increasing the cultivation of palm oil by bringing the additional area of around 10lakhs hectares under palm oil plantation in the next 5 years.
  2. Decreasing the import dependency by promoting the indigenous development of palm oil plantations.
  3. Reducing the import bill by increasing the indigenous production of edible oil, as edible oil contributes to a significant increase in the import bill.

Challenge and issues with National Mission for Edible Oils:

As it is to increase the palm oil plantation in Northeast regions of the Country. However region is one of the biodiversity hot spots and the scheme will promote monoculture and elevate the issue of biodiversity loss.

Aggravate the habitats loss for the many fauna and threat to the endemic species, especially flora in the region wherein the plantation is to be done.

Regulation and governing under the mission/ scheme of the plantation could be the challenge given the limited man/woman power with the government.

Way forward for National Mission for Edible Oils

The government of India has aimed to bring 10lakh hectares through the National Mission for Edible Oils, in the next five years, oil palm cultivation, oil palm must be declared as a plantation crop such as coffee, tea, and rubber to attract investment.

Important facts about Palm Oil:

  1. It is a vegetable oil of the edible category extracted from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of a palm tree.
  2. Like coconut oil, palm oil contains highly saturated vegetable fats and has the characteristic of getting semisolid at room temperature.
  3. Palm oil is found to be resistant to oxidation and remains stable at high temperatures. hence it helps the products for a longer shelf-life
  4. Due to the above characteristic oil palm is used in beauty products, in food manufacturing, and as biofuel and is also comparatively found to be cheaper which is why it is widely used in the commercial food industry.

Status of palm oil across the world:

  1. The largest consumer of palm oil is India (9.4 million tonnes) and Indonesia (6 million tonnes). These are the countries where palm oil is for cooking and the third-largest consumer of palm oil is the European Union
  2. The largest and second largest importers of palm oil are India (19 percent) and the European Union (15 percent, 7.3 million tonnes) respectively, followed by China with 14 percent, as per Index Muni, 2020.
  3. In India, oil palm is cultivated in 13 states: Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar.
  4. The highest producing states are Andhra Pradesh (83.5 percent) and Telangana. They account for about 97 percent of India’s total crude palm oil production (278,000 tonnes).
Status of palm oil across the world
Image source: United States Department of Agriculture.

Concern with palm Oil plantations:

Due to deforestation, millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere and subsequently, it contributes to climate change and imposed threat to environmental sustainability. It is also observed that plantation laborers and workers are exploited and sometimes children are also engaged.

As per various reports and news, the cultivation of Palm oil has been a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests and has destroyed the habitat of already endangered species such as the Sumatran rhino, Orangutan, and pygmy elephant.

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