K.V. Thomas, Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Food and Public Distribution, has said that in order to control and bring down the price rise of essential commodities in Kerala, the Union Government and the State Government have decided to act jointly.

Inaugurating the palm kernel oil plant of the public sector Oil Palm India Limited (OPIL) at Yeroor near here on Monday, Prof. Thomas said that as part of the move, Union Government’s National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED) and the State Government’s Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited (SUPPLYCO) will sign a memorandum of understanding in Palakkad on February 16 for the sale of essential commodity kits to consumers at 30 per cent subsidy.

He said the MoU between NAFED and SUPPLYCO will be signed in the presence of Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan. The agreement to sign the MoU was reached following talks between Prof. Thomas and Mr. Achuthanandan when they met at Delhi last week.

He said that over 50 per cent of the country’s edible requirement is being met through imports. During 2007-2008, the country imported 5.6 million tonnes of edible oil. During 2008-2009 the import of edible oil jumped to 8.18 million tonnes and is due to increase further this year.

This happens because India is unable to sufficiently produce its edible oil requirement. Therefore the Union Government has now taken steps for increasing the domestic production of edible oils. The Centre has now evolved a major programme to give financial and technical support to increase the production of edible oil and farms that produce edible oil seeds.

Special schemes to provide financial support for small and medium oil palm farmers have also been finalised. At present 3646 hectares are under oil palm cultivation in the country. The government wants this to be increased to 10,000 hectares as soon as possible. He said that the Centre will grant recognition to all schemes put forward by OPIL.

Prof. Thomas informed that the Centre has decided to start a modern poultry farm in Kollam district. The feasibility study for the project has been completed. Land for the farm will be provided at a suitable location by the State Government. He said the issue of constituting a Cashew Board based at Kollam will be discussed with the Union Ministry of Commerce.

The function was presided over by the Agriculture Minister, Mullakara Ratnakaran. The Labour Minister P.K. Gurudasan inaugurated the function. Kollam MP N. Peethambara Kurup, Punalur MLA B. Raju, OIPL chairman, V.B. Binu, OPIL directors S. Jayamohan, M. Salim and Koivila Ramachadran and the president of the All Kerala Oil Palm Plantation Staff Congress, Bharatheepuram Sasi spoke.

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