Agri Business

White fly hits oil palm, yield plummets

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on March 20, 2020 Published on March 20, 2020

A representative image   -  Reuters

Industry association asks govt to remove land ceiling norms, source better varieties

Oil palm growers in Andhra Pradesh are facing big trouble as plantations in the northern part of the State, particularly in East and West Godavari districts, have been hit by white fly infestation.

Vast stretches of oil palm plantation in the State have been hit by white fly, which reportedly crossed over from infected coconut groves in the vicinity. The attack left the farmers poorer by 35-40 per cent in yields last year.

The industry expects the losses to continue this year as well.

Andhra Pradesh accounts for the bulk of oil palm fruit production in India. Of the two lakh hectares under oil palm cultivation in the country, Andhra Pradesh accounts for 1.5 lakh acres.

“We suffered a fall in yields by 35-40 per cent (in the area contracted by the firm) in the last season,” Sanjay Goenka, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of 3F Oil Palm, told BusinessLine.

Whitefly sucks out all the nutrients from the leaves, resulting in yield losses. The industry feels that the whitefly must have attacked vast stretches, leading to lower yields.

“We hope we will find a solution soon, helping the farmers get back to the original yield levels,” he said.

Demands

He said the domestic potential for oil palm is huge. “Against an estimated potential of 25 lakh hectares, we are growing the rich oil-yielding edible oil crop in only two lakh hectares,” he said.

What the country needed is the drought-resistant variety and a shorter plant variety.

“These are available globally but are not so affordable. We appeal to the government to make it easier for growers to import these varieties till such time we develop them in our research labs,” Sanjay Goenka, President of the Oil Palm Developers and Processors Association, said.

Sanjay Goenka said the industry also expects the government to provide micro-irrigation facilities to ensure timely water supply to the plantations.

“Oil palm doesn’t require much water. It consumes much less water than paddy and sugarcane. But what it requires is timely supply of water,” he said.

While Malaysia and Indonesia, which dominate the world’s oil palm production, grow the crop in rain-fed conditions, India grows it on irrigated land. This disadvantage sees India having to settle for far lesser yields.

At present, about 20 companies cover an extent of two lakh hectares. “But the potential has been pegged at 25 lakh tonnes. In order to increase the acreage, the government needs to remove the Land Ceiling norms,” he said.

“In Malaysia, you see oil palm plantations spread over hundreds of acres. But in India, we are saddled with small holdings, making it difficult to increase the acreage and operationalise the holdings,” he said.

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Published on March 20, 2020
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