HYDERABAD: To bridge the gap between demand and supply, the Telangana government has been actively encouraging farmers to go for oil palm cultivation. With the Centre notifying 8.14 lakh acres in 25 districts of Telangana apart from the already notified area of 1.25 lakh acres in four districts, the department of agriculture has been moving at a brisk pace to expand its cultivable area in the next few years to up to 20 lakh acres.
Dr. V Madhava Reddy, former principal scientist at the Directorate of Oil Palm Research, ICAR and former Chief Agronomist, Godrej Agrovet Ltd, with over 30 years of experience in oil palm research, has made some interesting observations on oil palm extension at a recent meeting held at Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS), Hyderabad.
“Oil palm was introduced as a commercial crop in India in 1990 and under the Eighth Five-Year-Plan the target was to expand it to 80,000 acres, but not even 10,000 acres could be achieved across the country,” he said.
After travelling across the country and investigating the company and farmer-specific issues regarding oil palm cultivation, he felt that the issues were different in every State. Observing that it was not the right option for small farmers, Dr. Reddy said that where other crops were more profitable for farmers, they didn’t go for oil palm.
“In 30 years of persistent efforts, we have been able to achieve only 3.5 lakh acres of oil palm cultivation in the country. Out of this, 1.5 lakh acres are in Andhra Pradesh and some are also found in Dammapeta and Aswaraopeta mandals of Khammam district in Telangana,” he said, ruling out the possibility of achieving two million hectares across the country.
Recalling how oil palms were planned to be cultivated in 25 mandals in erstwhile Khammam district and Huzurnagar and Miryalguda areas in erstwhile Nalgonda district in 1990, Dr. Reddy recalled that the effort had failed to take off as desired, due to scarcity of water in most of the planned areas at the time.