Friday, September 17, 2021

PM Modi’s palm oil initiative to usher an Aatmanirbhar Bharat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced a new national initiative on the production of palm oil.

The scheme, called the National Edible Oil Mission-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) strives to make India aatmanirbhar in edible oil production.

About Palm oil:

Scientific name: Elaeis guineensis

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the fruit of oil palm trees. The oil can be derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree in two forms i.e.,

– Crude palm oil derived from squeezing the fleshy fruit, &
– Palm kernel oil from crushing the kernel, or the stone in the middle of the fruit.

Indisputable versatility:

Palm oil is there in nearly everything! Almost 50% of the packaged products found in supermarkets consists of palm oil.

The oil is indisputably versatile and is used extensively not just as edible vegetable oil, but also in the production of detergents, plastics, cosmetics, and biofuels.

Value in international market:

The versatile utility of the palm oil to a great extent explains its huge demand in the international market. It is currently the most consumed vegetable oil in the world.

Top producers: Although native to Africa, it was brought to South-East Asia over a 100 years ago as an ornamental tree crop. Today, Indonesia and Malaysia make up over 85% of global supply of palm oil. However, there are 42 other countries that also produce palm oil, including India.

Top consumers: India, China & the European Union (EU) constitute the highest demand of palm oil in the world.

What is the National Edible Oil Mission-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP)?

The newly launched initiative by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Edible Oil Mission-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) involves an investment of over Rs 11,000 crore.

Key features: 

  • 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.

What the initiative envisages?

The initiative recently launched by PM Modi is expected to incentivize the production of palm oil for reducing dependence on imports & help farmers cash in on the huge market.

The initiative further envisages to harness domestic edible oil prices, dictated by expensive palm oil imports and boost India’s forex reserves.

It also aims to raise the domestic production of palm oil by three times to 11 lakh MT by 2025-26.

Roadblock:

Despite the manifold benefits of palm oil, one major setback that comes along with it is the environmental damage & harm it causes to the biodiversity

Antidote: ‘Sustainable Palm oil’ – that can be harvested without damage to environment

However, years of research and global efforts to map ways to sustainably harvest palm oil to meet the increasing global demand, a sustainable way of palm oil harvesting was chalked out.

Indigenous study that provides sustainable alternatives of palm oil harvesting:

In an ambitious push towards self-sufficiency in vegetable oils, the Indian government is prioritizing the rapid expansion of domestic palm oil plantations to meet an expected doubling in palm oil consumption in the next 15 years.

However, to ensure that the current expansion of palm oil in India doesn’t occur at the expense of biodiversity-rich landscapes, a study was led by Umesh Srinivasan of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru recently.

As per the study, India, the world’s largest consumer and importer of palm oil, has the potential to produce it without compromising its natural landscapes.

In a nutshell, the study emphasizes that meticulous land-use planning and implementing fine-scale local strategies for palm oil cultivation can reduce the pressure on high biodiversity landscapes.

It investigated potential landscapes for palm oil cultivation and their overlap with biodiversity-rich landscapes and croplands in India. It thus suggests converting rice fields that produce less than two tons of rice per hectare to palm oil as a viable trade-off.

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