The Indian government has announced a national mission on edible oils and oil palm to boost domestic production and reduce the country’s dependence on imports, The Times of India wrote.

Announcing the US$1.48bn plan on 9 August, the country’s prime minister Narendra Modi said the National Mission on Edible Oil-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) would ensure that farmers could get support - from quality seeds to technology - to promote the cultivation of oil palm and oilseeds, according to the report.

“While India has become self-sufficient … in production of rice, wheat and sugar, it is not enough as the country is dependent on huge imports of edible oils,” Modi was quoted as saying.

Modi said oil palm farming could be promoted in the north east and Andaman and Nicobar regions, according to the report.

Smallholder farmers would benefit from oil palm cultivation with higher yields and better returns, he was quoted as saying.

The move had been welcomed by the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA), the report said.

“This is a giant step for oil palm development in the country,” SEA president Atul Chaturvedi was quoted as saying.

India imports about 60% of its annual edible oil demand of about 25M tonnes, according to the report.

In the 2019/20 oil year (November to October) the country imported 13.17M tonnes, The Times of India wrote.