The recent visit of a group of oil palm farmers from different districts of Chhattisgarh to meet their counterparts in Andhra Pradesh has become the latest testimonial for the oil palm cultivation success story in the fertile Godavari region.

While Andhra Pradesh is among the top cultivators of oil palm, it is the farmers from the East and West Godavari districts who have shown the way in progressive methods of farming to achieve a higher yield with minimum expenditure.

Predominant in upland areas, oil palm provided the right substitute for the not-so-remunerative crops such as tapioca and cashew.

Low input and maintenance costs coupled with assured market and price proved to be the key factors that attracted many farmers to switch over to oil palm from regular crops.

Under the aegis of the 3F Oil Palm Agrotech Private Limited, a group of 40 farmers from rural pockets of Chhattisgarh are on a two-day tour to Pedavegi in West Godavari district, where thousands of farmers have been cultivating oil palm for several years, prompting the government to establish the Indian Institute of Oil Palm Research here.

Field trips and interactive sessions with the local farmers formed part of the tour and helped them share experiences and views.

Crop schedule

“This tour helped us know the importance of maintaining the crop schedule. From cultivation to harvesting, we have to follow certain schedule to get the best yield,” observes Tikeshwar Sahu, an oil palm farmer from Durg district in Chhattisgarh.

Subject expert and organiser of the tour Killari Srinivasa Rao says farmers can get returns of up to Rs. 1 lakh per annum with minimum input costs for the first three years of the 25-year crop.

“The government is supporting oil palm in many ways and has also increased the incentive. The market is assured and the price is protected, as the government is keen on reducing the imports of edible oils in the long run,” he points out.

Rapid expansion

In East Godavari district, oil palm crop extent has increased from a mere 200 hectares in 1993 to about 27,000 hectares now.

A good number of oil companies have established their edible oil refineries along the Kakinada coast, and are focussing on increasing the local production of the kernel rather than importing the crude.

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