Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Tuesday said that the state's Oil Palm Project was inaugurated on November 12, 2020 and potential area of 66,652 hectares had been identified in six districts and started the plantation, but there has been a delay in expansion of projects due to public concern raised about the adverse effect of oil palm plantation.
Biren made the statement during a one-day national workshop on promotion of Oil Palm in Manipur held at Hotel Classic Grande, Chingmeirong, Imphal East. It was organised by the Department of Agriculture, government of Manipur under CSS of National Mission on Edible Oils and Oil Palm (NMEO-OP).
Appealing to experts and scientists, taking part in the workshop, to give a positive message to clear all apprehension, Biren said there exists apprehension in the public about degradation of soil, forest and that nothing could be planted on the soil once the oil palm plantation is taken up.
Hence, the workshop was organised to discuss and make people aware of the scientifically proven facts that no harm had been caused by oil palm plantation, he said. Other crops like pineapple, coffee, etc. could also be grown successfully within the premise of oil palm plantation areas, he added.
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Lauding the efforts of the Oil Palm Manipur project team and officials of the agriculture department for being able to produce saplings of oil palm in a short span of time, Biren said, “It is important for everyone to contribute in making our nation self-sustainable and enhance its economic growth, as many items which we consume are being imported from outside the country”.
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Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Thongam Biswajit said that India is one of the largest importers of oil palm, draining a large amount of money from the country. Once the production of palm oil is started through large-scale cultivation of oil palm, the huge amount spent on importing the same could be kept aside for use in other developmental projects, he added.
Expressing that cultivation of oil palm would provide much benefit to farmers, he appealed to take up the initiative of planting oil palm in a faster manner so as to make India economically viable.
He stressed the need for more funding to enhance the area of coverage for plantation of oil palm as the state had already identified large areas of potential land for such plantation.
During the inaugural programme, short video films on past, present and future of Oil Palm Project Manipur and stories of oil palm farmers of Arunachal Pradesh were shown.
The inaugural programme was attended by additional chief secretary (Health) and also Ex-Officio, Chairman of (SLSC), Oil Palm Manipur V Vumlunmang; commissioner (Agriculture) M Joy Singh; director, ICAR- Indian institute of Oil Palm Research, Pedavegi; RK Mathur, deputy commissioner (Oil Palm), ministry of agriculture, government of India; BK Srivastava, director, department of Agriculture, Manipur; N Gojendro, representatives from Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland, scientists, experts and other officials.
It may be mentioned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing the virtual foundation stone laying ceremony of Manipur water Supply Project on July 23, 2020, had appealed to the farmers in North-Eastern states to take up Oil Palm cultivation with an aim to make India self-sufficient in edible oils. He also recommended the state governments of the region to set up Oil Palm Missions in respective states to promote cultivation of oil palm.
According to the report of the sub-committee on Oil Palm Manipur, the assessment committee, 2012, of the Union Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare Ministry, did not recommend any potential areas of Manipur.
However, the re-assessment committee, 2020, recommended 66, 652 hectares in six districts namely, Imphal West (14,516 ha), Thoubal (18,475 ha), Bishnupur (10,389 ha), Churachandpur (11,662 ha), Chandel (6,803 ha), Ukhrul (4,808 ha).
Under the central sector scheme of National Food Security Mission-oil Palm, Department of Agriculture, Manipur has already submitted a project proposal to the joint secretary (OP), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers, Government of India amounting to Rs 225.12 crore for plantation of oil palm during 2020-21 in 5,000 hectares in six suitable districts of Manipur identified by the assessment committee of the Ministry of Agriculture, government of India.
As per a sub-committee report, oil palm is a humid crop that requires rainfall of 150mm a month or 2500-3000 mm/annum. Rainfall distribution in India is not even and adequate. Hence, oil palm can be grown well under assured irrigation conditions by adopting recommended practices.
However, the average annual rainfall of Manipur is 1449 mm. The months of November, December, January and February remain dry and the remaining eight months are more or less rainy. Therefore, water requirements calculated based on the soils of south India will differ from the soils of North Eastern states, the report said.