Unlocking the Potential of Indian Edible Oil: Impact of NMEO-OP

With the ever-increasing demand for edible oils in India, palm oil has become more important to meet the demands and ensure food safety. In August 2021, the Government of India launched the National Edible Oils and Oil Palm Mission NMEO-OP with the sole objective of promoting domestic oilseed production and aggressively increasing  oil palm (OP) area through farmers in various sectors. states in India. The Government of India has significantly increased  subsidies for ongoing components and inputs required in agriculture. For the first time, the Government has introduced the Viability Price of Fresh Fruits (FFB), which will ensure income to OP farmers under NMEO-OP. The task proposed that 6.5,000 hectares (ha) be added to the operational plan by 2025-26, with a special focus on the North Eastern States. This is a very ambitious goal. It has been more than two years  since NMEO-OP was introduced and it is  time to review the progress. 

  Good feedback was received from the farmers, and the cultivated areas improved reasonably  compared to the previous season. Desired progress is not 21-22. financial year and 23-24 still reached in the middle of the financial year. During that period,  the total OP area at the all-India level is barely 1.16 lakh ha. temporarily. Of this, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana contributed a total of 82,177 hectares during the corresponding period. It predicts progress and development to create a sustainable and resilient economy for all oil palm stakeholders in Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Telangana. There is no consensus on this and this is the reality. From 21-22. of the development trend of the financial year and until now, 21-22 May. financial year to 23-24 financial year OP area coverage across India to  be about 50% of the target set in NMEO-OP.

Reason and real concern 

Lack of optimal progress especially in North-E states and other states (except AP and Telangana) during the period under review is due to several reasons: Allotment of new districts to various enterprises in  states including N-E states, establishment of nurseries. and its growing season (including lead time) is approximately 18 months or more before seedlings are delivered to interested growers. It is also true that farmers in new regions/states follow a “wait and see” and “seeing is believing” approach. Few major and important issues like mechanization of oil palm plantations in states like AP and Telangana with extensive plantations, infrastructure development in northern states etc. also need to be addressed. 

 Warnings and recommendations 

 Oil palm companies should not be eager to sell  seedlings to anyone. Otherwise it’s a disaster. According to AP and Telangana,  the agriculture/horticulture department of  all other states should aggressively promote oil palm success stories in collaboration with processors. Selection of farmers with required resources, bringing effective cultivated area under  cluster approach etc. is critical and the only mantra for the success of the program. Telangana government  and AP  made it mandatory for farmers to install micro-irrigation systems during planting or immediately after planting  and subsidy given to farmers. Other countries should also implement this. Similarly, exploiting the potential of oil palm in the northeastern coastal states requires a  long-term focus of 12-15 years. 

 A professional core committee  should be formed under the board to physically review the  progress of six months and give the board a course correction, if any. Robotic solutions to harvest FFB and incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) to increase reliability and efficiency in oil palm operations are in transition. It may take time, but it’s not far off. That’s why you have to focus  on what seems essential and urgent and important, because every action from every side and angle is important. It’s time to look at the real bottom line and move on. I am confident that our industry will achieve its goal of  self-sufficiency in edible oil production  through oil palm cultivation in India.

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