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Oil palm plan is a recipe for disaster

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

 

Context: Environmental activists and politicians have expressed concerns over the centre’s proposal to promote oil palm cultivation in the Northeastern states and in the Andaman and Nicobar islands

More on this:

  • The concerns are primarily expressed on the ground that promotion of oil palm cultivation will further result in environmental degradation (oil palm is an invasive species) of the pristine ecosystem already threatened by various other threats
  • Other concerns expressed include– impact on community ownership of tribal lands, oil palm cultivation is a water-intensive task, monoculture cropping with a long gestation period will be unsuitable for small farmers, endangering wildlife etc
  • However, the government has allayed some of these concerns through its justification that the land identified for the cultivation in the north-eastern states have already been cleared and are cultivating in some cases, oilseeds; shifting to oil palm is more productive than cultivating oilseeds for the farmers

What is National Mission on Edible Oil-Oil Palm? 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced this new national initiative on palm oil production to help increase farm incomes. The scheme involves investment of over Rs 11,000 crore.

Aims and Objectives of the scheme:

  • Achieve self-reliance in edible oil.
  • Harness domestic edible oil prices that are dictated by expensive palm oil imports.
  • To raise the domestic production of palm oil by three times to 11 lakh MT by 2025-26.

Key features of the scheme:

  • The special emphasis of the scheme will be in India’s north-eastern states and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands due to the conducive weather conditions in the regions.
  • Under the scheme, oil palm farmers will be provided financial assistance and will get remuneration under a price and viability formula.

 

Benefits and significance of the scheme:

It is expected to incentivize production of palm oil to reduce dependence on imports and help farmers cash in on the huge market.

 

Need for such schemes:

  • India is the largest consumer of vegetable oil in the world. Of this, palm oil imports are almost 60% of its total vegetable oil imports.
  • In 2016- 2017, the total domestic consumption of palm oil by India was 9.3 million MT, with 98.97 percent of it imported from Malaysia and Indonesia. This means India was producing only 1.027 per cent of its requirement.
  • Also, in India, 94.1 per cent of its palm oil is used in food products, especially for cooking purposes. This makes palm oil extremely critical to India’s edible oils economy.

Palm oil:

  • Palm oil is currently the world’s most consumed vegetable oil.
  • It is used extensively in the production of detergents, plastics, cosmetics, and biofuels.
  • Top consumers of the commodity are India, China, and the European Union (EU).

 

Insta-curious links

What are the alternatives to palm oil? Reference

 

Prelims link

  1. What is National Mission on Edible Oil-Oil Palm and the need for such a programme? 
  2. What are its salient features?
  3. Status of oil palm cultivation in India?

Mains link

  1. Threats posed to the North-Eastern environment because of this proposal and how to combat them