DUDHNOI, July 3 - For the first time in the State, farmers in Dudhnoi and Boko have taken to oil palm cultivation. Started last year under the Centrally-sponsored National Mission for Oil Seeds and Oil Palm, the cultivation today covers a total area of 409 hectares.
India, incidentally, has been a major importer of palm oil for both edible and non-edible purposes. The objective of the mission is to reduce the country�s dependence on outside sources to meet its palm oil needs.
Khunkhrajani is a village near Dudhnoi where a group of 13 farmers is doing palm oil cultivation on a plot of 70 bighas since July 2 last year. Significantly, the area under palm oil cultivation happens to be a wasteland, as palm oil plants do not necessarily require fertile land. The mission, in fact, stresses on the use of wasteland and fallow land for bringing it under palm oil farming.
The State Agriculture Department has also entered into an agreement with Shivasais Oil Palm Private Limited for providing technological expertise and market linkage to the farmers.
Dhaneswar Rabha of the Khunkhrajani Oil Palm Farmers� Unit told The Assam Tribune that they were confident of reaping a rich harvest of palm oil once production begins.
�The palm oil plant starts flowering after 18 months and actual production from the fruit takes place after three years. A single tree can yield fruits for 25-30 years. This is a new venture for us but we are expecting a rich harvest,� Rabha said.
Rabha added that the Agriculture Department and the Rabha-Hasong Autonomous Council had extended a lot of assistance to the farmers in pursuing the new cultivation.
Manoranjan Das, SDO (Agriculture), Dudhnoi, said that seven farmers� units were being engaged in oil palm farming at Dudhnoi covering an area of 129 hectares.
�The groups are also receiving financial assistance for maintenance, inter-cropping, water supply (bore-well), hand-sprayers, etc., under the Central mission. However, we feel that the authorities can consider enhancing the subsidies in view of the costs involved and the fact that most of the cultivators are poor farmers,� he said.
As there is a big gap between the palm plants, the space is utilized for raising other crops, especially pulses and vegetables, through inter-cropping. This ensures double benefit for the farmers.
Das said that palm oil was a rewarding cash crop, with a single tree yielding sufficient amount of oil. �One can expect four-five tonnes of oil per hectare. It also conforms to non-genetically modified organism (GMO) norms.
The area under palm oil cultivation is to be expanded gradually. �This is a pilot project, and depending on its success, more areas will be brought under the mission phase-wise,� Das said.