Jeyalakshmi Palaniappan, 55, planted one and a half acres of oil palm in a village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. But she found cultivating them financially unviable and, nine years later, she uprooted them. Now, she grows coconut trees on another piece of land in the same village, and these are bringing her better returns.
Uthirapathy Muthusamy, 79, a retired professor in another part of the state, grew coconut as well as oil palms. While he was satisfied with the income from oil palm, he lost most of both crops to Cyclone Gaja in 2018, and decided to replant only coconut because it needed less maintenance and was more profitable.
Like these two growers, increasing numbers of oil palm farmers have switched to growing coconut and other crops. While the Indian government is pushing for an increase in local palm oil production, domestic consumption of coconut and other traditional oils, such as mustard, is increasing. At the same time, there seems to be a growing awareness of the environmental costs and health concerns associated with palm oil.
Many farmers prefer coconut cultivation, as the trees need much less water and can grow in a broader range of climatic and soil conditions. Given these advantages, will coconut oil come to partially replace palm oil?
News Source: China Dialogue