Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis) popularly known as African Oil Palm or Red Oil Palm, found originally in wild form in the forests of West Africa, was used by natives all over Africa as vegetable oil. When the Europeans reached Africa to explore the continent, around the 15th Century, they discovered the palm tree and that was the time the rest of the world got introduced to it. Four Oil Palm seedlings that entered Asia as ornamental plants, and were planted in Bogor Botanic Garden of Indonesia in 1846, became the potential mother palm source for the whole of Asia’s Oil Palm.
Within five decades, Asia, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia, became the largest producers and suppliers of Palm Oil in the entire world. Malaysia and Indonesia started commercial cultivation from 1912 to 1917.
The Oil Palm development was more rapid from 1980 onwards. Presently, the Palm Oil production in the world is 100 million MT of which Indonesia produces 48.95 million MT, Malaysia 36.19 million MT and the rest by others. As of now, Indonesia is the world leader in Palm Oil production.
The Government of India started three Oil Palm demonstrations of 1000 hectares, each in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, jointly by the Department of Biotechnology and the Agriculture/Horticulture Departments of the states.
Later, the Oil Palm Development Programme under Technology Mission on Oil Seeds and Pulses was formulated and implemented since the 9th five year plan (1991-92). Subsequently, the Oil Palm Development Project was merged with the Integrated Scheme for Oil Seeds, Pulses, Oil Palm and Maize (ISOPOM) with effect from financial year 2004-2005. A special initiative has been undertaken under RKVY Scheme of Department of Agriculture and Co-operation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, since 2011-2012 for implementation of a special programme on Oil Palm Area Expansion (OPAE) in order to augment the production of Palm Oil by 2.5 to 3.0 lakh tonnes in the next five years.