Mizoram has become a favoured destination for companies engaged in vegetable oil production after the state was identified as a major palm oil producer.
Three leading companies in the vegetable oil sector — Godrej Oil Palm Limited, Ruchi Soya and Food, Fats & Fertilizers Limited — will be setting up processing plants in the state by next year.
Mizoram agriculture department director C. Lalzarliana said.
“This will be for the first time that consumers outside the Northeast will get Mizoram palm oil through various companies.”
He said Mizoram had been identified as a major state for oil palm agriculture land and the state had earmarked 1,33,000 hectares of land for the purpose.
Interestingly, Mizoram is the only state in the Northeast where oil palm cultivation is done.
Lalzarliana said Kolasib and Mamit districts had been allotted to Godrej Oil Palm Limited, Lunglei and Lawngtlai districts were allotted to Ruchi Soya Industries Limited while Serchhip, Aizawl, and Saiha districts were bagged by Foods, Fats & Fertilizer Limited.
He said the processing factories would extract oil from fresh fruit bunches which would then be refined and used as edible oil. The kernel extracts would be used for making soaps and cosmetics.
Mizoram has already passed Oil Palm (Regulation of Production and Processing) Act, 2004. He said cabinet approval and Mizoram Public Investment Board (MPIB) clearance had been obtained for Kolasib district where Godrej Oil Palm Limited would be setting up the processing factory.
Godrej representatives said work on the factory would start this month and it was expected to be commissioned by the end of 2012.
As for Serchhip district, which was allotted to the Food, Fats & Fertilizers Limited, the agriculture department has initiated the process.
Rotlang Farm in Lungli district has been selected as the site for the Ruchi Soya factory and MPIB approval is awaited.
“The Centre, under oil palm area expansion scheme, has approved an allocation of subsidy of Rs 2.5 crore for each factory, amounting to Rs 750 lakh for the three factories,” Lalzarliana said.
In addition to the central subsidy, each private company will need to invest about Rs 4 crore in each factory. The estimated cost of one factory is Rs 6.5 crore.
The total number of farmer families engaged in palm cultivation till date is 3322.
Lalzarliana said a memorandum of understanding had been signed with the three companies a few years back.
Godrej Oil Palm Ltd has 5,840.54 hectares of oil palm plantations, Ruchi Soya India Limited has 2,534.71 has hectares, while Food, Fats & Fertilizers Limited has 971.05 hectares.
The official said bumper harvests had reported from farmers of Kolasib district and others and this indicated that oil palm could be grown successfully under the rainfed conditions of Mizoram.
The Centre has identified a total of 10.71 lakh hectares of land in 14 states of the country as being suitable for oil palm cultivation to meet the projected demand of 21.3 million tonnes by 2015.
“Malaysia and Indonesia have been playing a dominant role in the production of palm oil. But now India is preparing itself to compete in the global palm oil market. The directorate of oil palm research has been contributing by understanding the constraints affecting the production of oil palm in India and finding solutions through intrinsic research initiatives,” said S. Aluraj of the directorate of oil palm research.
He said palm was the crop of the present and future vegetable oil economy of the world as well as India. “Palm oil has good consumer acceptance as a cooking medium because of its price advantage. It is also a good raw material for manufacturing daily household articles like soaps and candles,” he added.
Currently the nine edible oilseeds varieties — groundnut, soyabean, rapeseed, mustard, sunflower, sesame, safflower, niger, castor and linseed — which are grown on about 36 million hectares, are unable to meet the demand for edible oil in India.
Consumption of palm oil in India is highest compared to that of other edible oils and the country has been mainly depending on imported oil to meet its requirements.