Palm Oil is a balanced vegetable oil and source of energy. More significantly, it is free of cholesterol and trans- fatty acids. Additionally, it is packed with carotenoids (a rich source of vitamin A) and Vitamin E.
Palm oil has good acceptance as a cooking medium because of its price advantage. It is also the raw material for manufacturing oleo chemicals used in the manufacture of soaps, candles, plasticizers, etc.
Palm Elaeis guineensis, originated in West Africa, is the highest edible oil yielding perennial crop. It produces two distinct oils, i.e., palm oil and palm kernel oil, which are used for culinary as well as industrial purposes. Palm oil is derived from the fleshy mesocarp of the fruit, which contains about 45-55% of oil.
Present Scenario : The production of oil palm has received greater impetus in India under the current scenario. India is one of the major producers and consumers of vegetable oils. India accounts for 12-15% of the area under oilseeds and 6-7% of the production of vegetable oil in the world. Despite annual production of about 27.00 million tonnes of oilseeds in the country, the availability of edible oil is not sufficient to meet the domestic demand.
The almost stagnant domestic production of oilseeds and increased per capita consumption of edible oils has increased the dependency on imports in recent years. The country currently produces less than 50 % of its requirement of edible oils. The growth of the economy is expected to lead to increased per capita consumption of edible oils in the future resulting in greater import dependency.
Production Expansion Programme : It was under this scenario that the Oil Palm Development Programme (OPDP) was launched during 1991- 92 under the “Technology Mission on Oilseeds and Pulses” (TMOP) with a focus on area expansion in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Gujarat and Goa. From 2004-05 onwards, the scheme is being implemented as part of the “Integrated Scheme of Oil seeds, Pulses, Oil Palm & Maize” (ISOPOM) and provides support for Oil Palm cultivation in 12 states including Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka , Kerala, Tripura, and West Bengal. In Tamilnadu, oil palm is being cultivated in Trichy, Karur, Nagapattinam, Perambalur, Thanjavur, Theni, Thiruvallur, Tiruvarur, and Tuticorin.
Oil Palm Area Expansion : A special initiative is being undertaken under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) for the implementation of the Special Programme on Oil Palm Area Expansion (OPAE) in order to augment the production of palm oil by 2.5 to 3.00 lakh tonnes in the next 5 years. Under the programme, it is proposed to expand palm oil cultivation in Tamilnadu to about 700 acres more of area. The proposed financial out lay for the programme has been pegged at 4.2 crore rupees. At the national level, it is proposed to undertake the expansion of oil palm cultivation to about 60,000 hectares more under the OPAE. It has also been decided that the expansion of area under cultivation will be concentrated on area under the purview of existing mills so as to increase the technical and economic viability of operations.