Oil palm farmers in the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh are unhappy this year with the sharp price slump from a level of above Rs 7,758 a tonne last year to Rs 5,880 currently and have urged the Union Government to help them by fixing the price at Rs 6,000 regardless of fluctuations in the international market.Several incentives and subsidies are being given by the State and Central governments to promote oil palm cultivation, but farmers are unhappy with the fluctuations in price.

They also want additional cess on imports and additional incentives.

Cultivated area

Oil palm is being cultivated in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and East and West Godavari districts in 70,000 hectares and in the current financial year, 8,000 acres are being added in the five districts.The extent of cultivation in Srikakulam is 1,500 hectares; Vizianagaram 8,000; Visakhapatnam 4,000; East Godavari 20,000 and West Godavari 40,000 hectares.

The government gives a subsidy of Rs 60,000 for four years for a hectare up to 15 hectares.

It also fixes the purchase price from the farmer and arranges buy-back agreement between farmers and oil palm processing companies.

Each company is allotted a zone and it collects the fresh fruit bunches fromthe farmers. The government monitors price on a monthly basis.

Agro Cooperative Corporation, Foods, Fats and Fertilizers, Palm Tech and Ruchi Soya and several other companies have tied up with oil palm farmers.

Production

On an average, 25-30 tonnes of oil palm fruits for a hectare can be harvested.

Additional Director of Horticulture G. Prabhakar Rao said the oil palm farmers produce in one acre what gingelly and groundnut farmers do in four acres.

The quantum of other oils produced in four lakh hectares can be produced in one lakh hectare of oil palm.

The National Oil Palm Research Centre at Pedavegi in West Godavari district offers training to farmers.

The average life of the plant is 30 years and from the fifth year onwards, the plant starts producing matured fruits.

During the gestation period of four years, the farmers can go for inter-crops such as vegetables for which the government is giving Rs 7,000/hectre.

sarma.rs@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on March 8, 2013)
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