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Palm Oil Production or a new Yellow Revolution

We all know about the green revolution that was initiated in the late 1960s for uplifting the agriculture sector. However, this isn't the only revolution that our economy underwent. There are more like blue, yellow, red, white, golden, etc., and all of them have distinct functions. Why am I talking about this now? As we know not only crude oil, India also heavily depends on edible oil imports too. According to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution, the total demand of the country is 250 lakh metric tonnes per year, and approximately 60% of its demand is met by import which is implicative of the fact that there is a wide gap between the demand and supply which explains the high urgency to import edible oil. In the late 1980s, after the Yellow Revolution, edible oil was still the largest import item next after crude oil. The easy import of edible oil at a low price led to production to buy this directly from international players. Despite India being an agrarian country, it still imports food like edible oil. Why is India not capable of producing edible oil?

Last year, the price of soya prices in the market came down, and farmers were not able to get the return they were expecting, so India had to import GM soy meal because it exported non-GM soya meal. Interestingly, against the requirement of 28.99 lakh quintals of soybean seeds for 2021 Kharif, the availability was 28.11 lakh quintals. This case shows that India lacks planning in the production of oilseeds and oil production. India still lacks Micro-irrigation, quality seeds, marketing infrastructure, low productivity, less knowledge, method of technique, modern technology, and government policies. In India there are many schemes and benefits for farmers and only few know about those like Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Kisan Credit Card and many more.

India imports nearly 60% of the edible oil of which palm oil has the largest segment. It is used in 70% of personal care products including soap, shampoo, makeup, and lotion. This pervasive vegetable oil is found in margarine, ice cream, chocolate, detergent, instant noodles, biodiesel, cosmetics, and cooking oil among other things. Nowadays people are considering it to make food too because it is rich in fats, some vitamins, and antioxidants. In August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced an initiative on Palm oil production which is known as National Edible Oil Mission-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP). The motive behind this scheme was to foster self-reliance in edible oil, it involves an investment of over Rs 11,000 crore. The mission aims to boost domestic oilseed production and make the country self-sufficient in cooking oils. The NMEO proposal would aim to reduce import dependence from 60% to 45% by 2024-25, by increasing domestic edible oil production from 10.5 million tonnes to 18 million tonnes, a 70% growth target. Under this mission, over Rs. 11,000 crores will be invested in the edible oil ecosystem. The government will invest this amount via the National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm to provide farmers with everything possible, including better seeds and technology.

Under the mission, farmers will get all facilities, from quality seeds to technology to promote farming to produce palm oil and other oil seeds. Further, the government is recommending the planting of palm seed in the northeast area and Andaman and Nicobar Island. But we all know, planting palm seed will require a large area and it will lead to cutting of forests and loss of biodiversity. It needs high rainfall, adequate solar radiation, and high humidity to maximize photosynthetic capacity. If we look at our South Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, due to the production of palm oil they lost the ecological system. In Indonesia, two of the most daunting challenges faced by the oil palm industry are deforestation and peatland destruction, which is associated with a high level of carbon emissions, and even tropical forest and the secondary forest was cut down for production which resulted in the loss of a large ecosystem. India will face this destruction if palm oil is produced. However, helps in generating employment in Indonesia for rural people but their rights are misused by plantation companies, there are many conflicts between plantation companies and local communities in Indonesia that sometimes even led to companies ceasing operation. There are skills required to produce palm oil, better irrigation systems or high rainfall and many more.

Our Indian farmers have to go through all the process of palm oil plantation and it will take time to understand the scheme and awareness. Rather than launching the scheme, I prefer to launch another yellow revolution as farmers are not aware of this and aren't able to avail benefits from it. The Yellow Revolution was launched in 1986, to achieve the self-reliance aspect in edible oil. The father of the Yellow Revolution in India is “Sam Pitroda”. In this revolution, different types of production of oilseeds include groundnut, mustard, soybean, safflower, sesame, sunflower, etc. It includes incentives to farmers who were also provided processing facilities that included irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. transportation facility, minimum support price, warehousing, etc. The increasing Yellow revolution will help in increasing the production of edible oil. India imported 83.26 USD Million of Mustard Oil from those 17 countries in 2020-2021 (Apr-Nov) and 24.77 USD Million in 2018, which is up by 24.66% than the Mustard Oil imported into India the previous year. Recently the price of edible oil is increasing day by day. In India, most of the population consumes mustard oil in their house and it is impacted due to a rise in global prices of other edible oils that the country imports. India is capable of producing mustard oil with the help of the yellow revolution, it is still imported from other countries. If we look back at the Oil Technological Mission in 1986 to ensure that there is success for this particular movement.

It increased oil production by 24 million tonnes in 10 years with the use of modern and improved technology, hybrid seeds. The yellow revolution came up with many benefits for the farmers. They were given facilities like fertilizers and pesticides for the crops, as well as irrigation, etc. Other facilities included the transportation facility and storage. This made the revolution successful. The government should introduce new policies in this revolution like providing land at low cost to farmers, subsidies, etc, and keep in mind where the production of edible oil will give us fruitful results so we can achieve self-sufficiency.

In September 2021, Dinesh Shahra was awarded for his exemplary contribution to the Edible Oil Industry and for spreading and using the concept of the yellow revolution.With increasing production of mustard oil we will be able to achieve self-reliance and we can export the oil to other countries which will increase the forieng currency reserve. So, instead of expanding the plantation of palm oil seeds, we should revive our unremembered ‘Yellow Revolution’. As farmers know about this type of farming, it will help many farmers to increase their income as well as the GDP of India.The primary sectors contribute most to our GDP as an agrarian country, it will also help in produce employment however, palm oil plantation will also generate employment but it will take time to know about this type of farming and there will be slow growth but in yellow revolution there will be boost of employment as farmer know about this. We should learn from other countries' cases that harmed their ecosystem because of palm oil production that are mentioned above and focus on features of this yellow revolution that will benefit to achieve self-sufficiency and meet demand-supply factors.

Roshni Kumari
First Year Undergraduate Student, SRCC

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