Oil Palm Cultivation, The Key To Tripura’s Economic Growth: Agriculture Minister – Ratan Lal Nath

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Posted in Featured, Northeast, Tripura
Abhijit Nath, NET Correspondent, Tripura

Agartala, August 05, 2023: In a push towards self-reliance, the Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare minister Ratan Lal Nath on Friday stressed the importance of utilizing abandoned agricultural lands for cultivating coconut, betel nut, jackfruit, orange, pineapple, and other crops. He believes this approach will empower the youth of the state, making them ‘Atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant) and ‘Swanirbhar’ (self-sufficient). Additionally, he highlighted the significant role oil palm cultivation will play in bolstering the state’s economy in the near future.

Launching the Oil-Palm Plantation Drive at Shantinagar VC of Belbari Block under Jirania Agri sub-division, Nath emphasized the importance of self-reliance among people living in the hills to achieve true development in the state. He highlighted the central government’s efforts to promote ‘Atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant) and ‘Swanirbhar’ (self-sufficient) initiatives, which the Tripura government is also striving to implement under the leadership of Chief Minister Prof Dr Manik Saha.

Nath stressed the significance of focusing on villages and hills in Tripura, as they house all the agricultural lands and are essential for the state’s economic growth. He pointed out that agriculture is the main source of profit in the state due to a limited number of industries. To achieve success in becoming self-reliant, he emphasized increasing production efficiency, especially in the agriculture sector.

The minister discussed the potential of palm oil cultivation as a profitable alternative to rubber. While rubber production takes seven years to yield profit, palm oil can generate income after just four years. Moreover, a farmer can earn significantly higher income from palm oil cultivation compared to rubber, contributing to the state’s and the country’s self-reliance. Currently, India imports palm oil worth Rs 80,000 crore from other countries, and promoting domestic palm oil production can reduce this dependency.

Ratan Lal Nath shared an example of ‘Atmanirbhar’ success, mentioning Roshan Debbarma, a B.Tech qualified engineer, who is starting oil palm cultivation on his 4-hectare plot i.e. 24 kaanis. The central government’s mega drive from July 25 to August 05 encourages such initiatives, and the Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare department, along with Patanjali Foods Limited is actively promoting oil palm plantation in five districts and and Godrej Limited in three districts of the state.

To facilitate farmers, the government plans to establish centers to purchase crude oil from them and send it to refineries for final oil production, branded as Ruchi oil by Patanjali Foods Limited. Separate processing centers by Patanjali and Godrej will be set up in the state.

Addressing controversies in neighbouring states regarding oil palm cultivation, Nath stated he was unaware of such issues but pledged to investigate and resolve any weaknesses in Tripura. He clarified that the government does not intend to stop rubber cultivation but encourages farmers to explore other crops like coconut, betel nut, jackfruit, orange, and pineapple in abandoned agricultural lands. The government has also initiated steps to set up centers of excellence for these crops.

Speaking at the event, Director of Horticulture and Soil Conservation Dr Phani Bhushan Jamatia spoke about the significant role of palm oil as a widely used edible oil in India at present. According to statistics, he highlighted that each year, the per capita consumption of edible oil amounts to approximately 18.25 kg, which accounts for a substantial 47.92 percent of the overall demand. Notably, Central India has risen to become the world’s second-largest importer of palm oil.

In response to the escalating demand and to bolster domestic production, the Government of India has taken decisive action by organizing the “Mega Oil Palm Plantation Drive” across various states, including Tripura. The primary aim of this drive is to encourage and facilitate palm growers in the region.

In this pursuit, two esteemed companies, Godrej Agrovet Ltd. and Patanjali Foods Pvt. Ltd., have been chosen as associate partners representing the Horticulture Department. Their pivotal roles encompass the supply of seedlings, cooperation in logistics, and the establishment of palm oil factories. The districts of Unakoti, North, and Dhalai have been allotted to Godrej Agrovet Limited, while Patanjali Foods Limited will operate in Khowai, West, Sepahijla, Gomati, and South districts, he added.

To promote palm cultivation, Dr Jamatia said that the government has already set up two oil palm nurseries, one at Jhumerdhepa government gardens in Sepahijala district and another at Nalkata government gardens in Dhalai district. These nurseries are primed to supply high-quality saplings to palm growers across the state.

With a focus on supporting palm oil farmers, the selected associate partners, Godrej Agrovet Ltd. and Patanjali Foods Pvt. Ltd., have initiated training programs. Additionally, farmers are encouraged to diversify their income by cultivating various intercrops such as leafy vegetables, papaya, ginger, turmeric, cocoa, bell pepper, banana, and pineapple.

Dr. Jamatia’s address at the event served as an inspiring call to action, unveiling the potential opportunities and economic benefits that await the palm growers and farmers of Tripura.

In this event, Takarjala MLA Biswajit Kalai, Belbari MDC Ganesh Debbarma, department’s Secretary Apurba Roy, Advisor of Patanjali Foods Limited Dr Subhash Bhattacharjee also spoke while social activist Rabindra Debbarma and BAC chairman of Belbari RD Block Roken Debbarma were present.

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