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India's palm oil ambitions for northeast frontier stir concern

Opponents fear environmental degradation if monoculture is promoted

A plantation laborer in Mizoram's Kolasib District with palm oil fresh fruit bunches. (Photo by Varsha Torgalkar)

KOLASIB, India -- Environmentalists, academics, social activists and farmers in India are opposing a government plan to expand palm oil production in northeastern border states because they believe it will not benefit farmers and harm the environment.

"I hardly earn 30,000 rupees ($400) yearly profit after spending on fertilizers, pesticides, laborers and transport," said Lalchhana Hmar, 70, who grows fresh fruit bunches (FFB) of oil palm. His village in Kolasib, a district in Mizoram State, is close to Myanmar.

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