India's Modi to bet $1.5 bln on palm oil plan as imports surge
* Targets 8 mln T palm oil output in next five years -sources
* Govt identifies nine states to cultivate crop -sources
* Would be blow to key exporters Malaysia, Indonesia
By Mayank Bhardwaj
NEW DELHI, Aug 18 (Reuters) - India plans to spend $1.5 billion in the next three years to help farmers grow oil palm trees in an area the size of New Jersey, government sources said, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushing to make the nation self-sufficient in edible oils this decade.
Modi is targeting India's $10 billion import bill for edible oils, its third-highest overseas spend after oil and gold, and has already been considering buying oilseeds directly from farmers and boosting government support for growing rapeseed, soybeans and peanuts.
A successful Indian push into palm cultivation would drag on international markets for the commodity, hitting Indonesia and Malaysia as they are currently the only major growers of the crop.
"We've identified nine states with suitable climatic conditions but we were apprehensive that the long gestation period would dissuade farmers from adopting the crop," said one of the sources involved in the planning. He declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak with media.
"That's why we've decided to earmark 10,000 crore rupees ($1.53 billion) that will largely be spent on supporting the farmers." Continuación...