Illegal nurseries a threat to palm industry in Telugu states

KHAMMAM: Mushrooming oil palm nurseries selling non-standard seedlings to gullible farmers to make a quick buck are turning out to be a major threat to oil palm industry in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

There are 35 illegal nurseries in Dammapet and Aswaraopet mandals. Neither horticulture officials nor Telangana State Cooperative Oil Seeds Growers Federation have a clue about these nurseries.

Gutha Srinivasa Rao, an MBA graduate and oil palm grower in Dammapet, said, “Oil palm farmers must be careful as they will realise that they have sown spurious seedlings only after five years. All their efforts will thus be lost. Illegal nurseries must be nipped in the bud,” he maintained.

Horticulture officer of Bhadradri district J. Marianna said that they would take stringent action against such nurseries. There is a massive demand for oil palm seedlings in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Telangana government is trying to make available this year 1.14 lakh oil palm seedlings in the state. The demand from farmers is double that.

Many farmers are visiting nurseries in Dammapet and Aswaraopet in Bhadradri-Kothagudem district and Pedavegi in Andhra Pradesh to buy seedlings. Though not having proper knowledge about oil palm seedlings, these farmers are ready to give ₹500 per seedling when the market price is ₹300. Black marketers are thus trying to cash in on the situation by selling spurious seedlings to them.

Indian Institute of Oil Palm Research (IIOPM), Pedavegi, principal scientist M.V. Prasad said, “Two years’ time is required for developing a healthy oil palm seedling. Governments or oil palm industry should place their order for seedlings with the institute two years in advance.” Scientists identify dura – female parent of mother palm and pisifera – male parent palm. Tenera, a hybrid seedling, is a progeny of dura X pisifera. Finding palms and crossing them takes two years at least.

Scientists say it is impossible to make this type of seedlings in ordinary nurseries or farms. IIOPM is said to have produced 30 lakh seedlings this year.

The central government and palm industry are expected to meet in October and estimate the demand for oil palm seedlings. It is expected that the demand will be between 1.5 crore and 2 crore seedlings. As such an amount will not be available in India, the government imports oil palm seedlings from Costa Rica, Indonesia and Malaysia in a big way.

It is said Naramvarigudem Nursery has got 2 lakh seedlings from these countries this year.

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