Govt all set to introduce oil palm cultivation in DK, Udupi

Farmers apprehensive over scheme, say prefer rubber to oil palm

The Central and State government is all set to introduce oil palm cultivation in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts as an alternate to areca crops which are hit with yellow leaf and root grub diseases. However, the farmers in the districts do not seem to be keen in adopting oil palm cultivation in spite of the generous packages offered by the government.

Under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana Oil Palm cultivation scheme 2011-12, around 250 hectares of land will be identified in the undivided DK district to cultivate oil palm.

The farmers opting to grow this crop will be given financial aid of Rs 70 per sapling up to six hectares of land and aid to buy fertilisers. In the first year of cultivation, the government will give Rs 6,000 per hectare.

The Government shall also allot funds for drip irrigation, machinery required to cultivate oil palm, Rs 10,000 per hectare for inter-crop cultivation in the first three years, fund for vermin-compost, pesticides, solar fencing, water pump-lines, diesel and electric pump sets and digging bore-wells. The farmers will be trained and taken on tours to have better understanding of the crop under his scheme.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, DK Department of Horticulture Deputy Director Dr S Nanda says that the government will give 50 per cent subsidy and the other 50 per cent will be looked after by the farmer.

At present, Godrej Agrovet Limited is surveying and identifying land. “We hope to start cultivating in 50 hectares of land by March end,” she says and adds that the crop will start yielding in the fourth year of its cultivation and the tree has a good life span of 35 to 50 years. 

“We provide technical guidance to the farmers free of cost, take up the responsibility of marking the land and also give seedlings provided by the government which are nurtured in our nurseries in Belgaum,” says Godrej Agrovet Limited (Belgaum) District Development Executive M N Narasimha.

Survey on 

At present, the survey process has started in Sullia, Puttur, Bantwal, Mangalore, Moodbidre and survey shall soon start in Udupi. Godrej Agrovet Limited will also buy the oil palm fruit from the farmers at the rate fixed by the price fixation committee.

“Unlike areca, farmers need not bother about processing and grading. Oil palm will yield in four years whereas areca takes seven. Every tree would give at-least 250 kgs of fruit. At present, one tonne of oil palm fruit would cost Rs 7,000,” says Narasimha and adds that the company will only identify the land but the option of growing the crop is left to the farmers.

Skeptic farmers

“Arecanut in spite of all its drawbacks is a good crop,” says All India Arecanut Association President Manchi Srinivas Achar.

Explaining reasons on the apprehension of the farmers in growing oil palm, he says, the present rate of new arecanut is Rs 125 to Rs 150 per kg and Rs 180 kg for old arecanut. For one acre of areca crops, farmers can expect Rs 1 to Rs 1.44 lakh annual turnover. However, oil palm may fetch only Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 per acre.

Secondly, people would prefer to grow rubber than oil palm as rubber requires less water compared to oil palm. The subsidy given by the government will be limited and farmers have to bear the additional costs. The fluctuating nature of the oil price, difficulty in extraction of palm oil, lack of buyers in the general market could be some of the reasons, says Achar and adds “arecanut being a traditional crop has been more widely accepted and it takes time for farmers to accept a totally new crop.”

The yellow leaf disease has severely hit Sampaje and some portions of Sullia. Hence, oil palm would be a good option in these places, says Achar.

Huge demand

“There is a demand of 120-130 lakh tonne of crude oil in the country. However, only 50 to 60 lakh tonne is produced forcing India to import 70 lakh tonne of crude oil from other nations which will cost approximately Rs 30,000 crores,” says Dakshina Kannada  Zilla Panchayat CEO Dr K N Vijaypraksh.

“We can be self-dependent in case we grow this crop in our country. We can expect four to five tonne of crude oil per hectare,” he says.

In Karnataka, 11,750 hectares have been cultivated with oil palm of which 2,800 hectares is bearing fruit of 9,000 to 10,000 metric tonne per year,” he says.

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