Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Group-led Ruchi Soya plans to set up palm oil plantations comprehensively in Assam, Tripura and other North-Eastern states.

The oil processor, taken over by the Patanjali Group two years ago, after it slipped into the red, has already done field surveys for the palm oil plantations which will be set up through contracts that guarantee farmers a buy-back by Ruchi Soya’s processing plants to be established in those states and it has also completed a survey for the high-value cultivation that yields cheap oil.

As per the company, Patanjali is to set up palm oil plantations in the North-East and the survey has been completed. These states are Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Manipur.

India, nowadays, has patches of palm oil plantations scattered in Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, Andamans, Gujarat, Goa and Andhra.

While Baba Ramdev was unwilling to place a date for the start of the oil plantations, he indicated that it would be done after Ruchi Soya which is in the process of raising funds from investors, gets over its debts with the proceeds of a share sale.

He indicated that the plantations to be run by farmers would be backed by processing plants set up by Ruchi Soya, as oil has to be processed within 48 hours of the palm being harvested.

Transformation of forests to oil palm plantations also result in substantial losses of rare and endangered tropical species of plants and animals. Oil palm plantations are nowhere comparable to primary (or even degraded) forests in terms of ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, water security and soil protection, ecologists say. But India appears poised to join the growing list of countries where oil palm is exacting high socio-economic and environmental costs.

The government has initiated to seriously view oil palm as important to India’s edible oil security and is aggressively pushing for increased cultivation under the special programme on Oil Palm Area Expansion (OPAE). Rs 300 crore have been allocated for OPAE to expand oil palm cultivation in 12 states including those in the North-East over five years.

India imports most of its palm oil requirements from South East Asia, despite its home-grown plantations as edible oil is key for Indian cooking.