Environmental News from India:
- India’s national mission to increase domestic production of palm oil to reduce dependence on imports has turned the focus on the expansion of the crop in the country’s biodiversity-rich northeastern states, including Arunachal Pradesh.
- Oil palm, a tropical plant, was introduced in the foothills and valley areas of Arunachal Pradesh in 2012, with some areas showing promising growth of the plant. But in the absence of any processing mill in Arunachal Pradesh, and the prospect of transporting fruits to other states being commercially unviable, oil palm fruits produced in the state are being left to rot on the farms.
- Pioneer oil palm farmers in the state are losing hope in the want of processing mills, competitive markets for their produce and road connectivity to the remotely located farms. Some have started to notice parallels with the failed jatropha project, and others fear that oil palm companies will monopolise the market and control the price, something that is currently plaguing the state’s cardamom farmers.
Over the past seven years, Takali Tamuk, a farmer and agro-entrepreneur from Pasighat in the East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, has attended several outreach programmes on oil palm cultivation. These were organised as part of the Indian government’s push to promote the crop in the state. Like many others in the region, he adopted oil palm, but with studied caution: he planted the new crop only on a small plot of land to test its suitability to local soil and climate.
While his palm trees grow promisingly, and some have even taken to fruiting, Tamuk doubts the crop’s successful introduction in the state and says he has “lost all hope that the crop will take off in the state, unless a robust supply chain is created”.
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