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Measures for promoting oil palm cultivation

By Our Staff Reporter

K. Pandurangan, Agriculture Minister, releasing a manual on oil palm cultivation at a seminar in Tiruchi on Thursday. P. Annavi (second from left), Labour Welfare Minister, receives the copy. V. Pandian (extreme right), Tiruchi Collector, and M. Para njothi (extreme left), Chairman, Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation, look on. — Photo: M. Moorthy.

TIRUCHI, DEC. 9. The Agriculture Department is working out a series of programmes for encouraging oil palm cultivation in the State, said K. Pandurangan, Agriculture Minister.

Delivering the valedictory address at a seminar on `Oil palm cultivation' organised by the department here today, the Minister said the department was considering a plan to introduce contract farming to enhance the area under palm oil cultivation. Now, only 2,364 hectares are under the crop.

The contract farming technique being considered would be similar to that introduced for jatropha and `sakkarai cholam' varieties. It would not only ensure assured returns to the growers but also stabilise the arrivals for the crushing factory. The Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, would soon make an announcement on the modalities of the technique for the crop, he added.

The extension wing personnel of the department will launch an intensive awareness programme among the farmers on the benefits of cultivating oil palm. Once the harvest period begins, the crop would become less labour intensive and resistant to natural calamities. Not all farmers were fully aware of the Rs. 23,000 per hectare subsidy that was available, he said.

Mr. Pandurangan said the previous Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam regime did not encourage oil palm cultivation in the State and had showed no interest although the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government which preceded it had mooted a proposal to promote the cultivation during 1991- 96.

Another factor which affected the production of oil palm in the State was the downward revision of excise duty by the Centre from 90 to 75 per cent on the edible oil imported chiefly from Malaysia and Indonesia owing to which indigenous crushing units could not withstand the competition in the global market. To tide over this, the State Government should press the Centre to double the excise duty from 75 to 150 per cent, he said.

The Minister agreed to consider the withdrawal of the three per cent purchase tax and one per cent sales tax at the request of several oil palm growers.

Claiming that the State stood first in the country in coconut production, he appealed to coconut growers to use pesticide to control `eryophyide' (sembansilanthi). The air-borne disease had affected 2.23-crore coconut trees in the State. The department has sanctioned Rs. 9.5 crores to control the disease during the first phase in seven districts including Theni, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Dharmapuri, Erode and Coimbatore covering 1.42-crore trees. In the second phase, districts such as Tiruchi and Thanjavur would be covered. The programme would be completed by March 2005, he said.

The Labour Welfare Minister, P. Annavi, appealed to farmers to shift to oil palm cultivation.

The Collector, V. Pandian, said only 30 acres had been brought under the oil palm crop in the district. V.G. Jayamani, Chief Executive Officer, Cauvery Palm Oil Limited, Vaaranavasi, spoke about the advantages of the crop.

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