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The Union Cabinet has given approval for a renewed mission on oil palm with special focus on Northeast region and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

The National Mission on Edible Oils-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) as a new centrally-sponsored scheme will have a financial outlay of Rs 11,040 crore. Of this, Rs 8,844 crore is the Government of India’s share and Rs 2,196 crore is state share, including viability gap funding, a government release said.

The proposed scheme will subsume the current National Food Security Mission-Oil Palm programme.

Addressing reporters after the Cabinet meet, Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said: “Currently, there is heavy dependence on imports for edible oils and therefore, it is important to make efforts for increasing the domestic production of the same.”

To a question as to why the government wants to destroy the biodiversity at both Northeast states and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Tomar said that increasing area and productivity of oil palm play an important part in being self-dependent in oil.

“No new land will be brought under oil palm cultivation. It will be done on land that is already under cultivation,” Tomar said, allaying fears about biodiversity loss.

To another question as to why the government is promoting oil palm over indigenous varieties of oil seeds such as mustard, til, sunflower and groundnut, Tomar said: “One hectare of oil palm plantation yield is many times more than any of these oil seeds on the same area, and that too much faster. Hence to meet the gap in demand and supply, it is imperative to turn to oil palm.”

Under this scheme, it is proposed to cover an additional area of 6.5 lakh hectare for oil palm till 2025-26 and thereby reaching the target of 10 lakh hectare ultimately.

The production of crude palm oil (CPO) is expected to go up to 11.20 lakh tonnes by 2025-26 and up to 28 lakh tonnes by 2029-30, a ministry release said.

Since 1991-92, many efforts have been made by the Government of India to increase the production of oilseeds and palm oil.

The oilseeds production in the country has increased from 275 lakh tonnes in 2014-15 to 365.65 lakh tons in 2020-21.

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