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Reducing Edible Oil Imports




  • EDIBLE oil is extracted from seeds of crops like rapeseed, mustard, groundnut, linseed, sunflower, soybean, sesame and canola grown in the country. However, a large quantity of edible oil is obtained from cotton seed. The total availability of edible oil in 2005-06 was 2.905 million tons. Local production stood at 0.793 million tons which accounts for 27 percent of the total available quantity while the remaining 73 percent was …

     

    EDIBLE oil is extracted from seeds of crops like rapeseed, mustard, groundnut, linseed, sunflower, soybean, sesame and canola grown in the country. However, a large quantity of edible oil is obtained from cotton seed. The total availability of edible oil in 2005-06 was 2.905 million tons. Local production stood at 0.793 million tons which accounts for 27 per cent of the total available quantity while the remaining 73 per cent was procured through imports. During 2006-07, local production of edible oil stood at 0.855 million tons. During this period, 2.201 million tons of edible oil was imported and 0.349 million tons extracted from imported seed.The country imports edible oil from Malaysia, Indonesia, Norway, Singapore and Argentina. Of the imported quantity, about 56 per cent is of palm oil.Keeping in view record increase in the prices of edible oil in the world markets due to decline in world production of palm oil and soybean crops, edible oil crisis is looming large over the country. To add to this, the current year?s overall production of palm oil in South America and soybean production in some other countries, including Argentina and Brazil, has also declined significantly.
    Due to rising demand and low supply, palm oil prices in the world market have shot up by $120 per ton to $1170 from $1050 per ton just within one month. Moreover, the prices of edible oil are likely to go up further which might create a crisis in the country. Similarly, in the domestic market, the prices of edible oil have gone up by Rs40 per kilogramme within one month due to the soaring prices of palm oil and soybean oil in the world market so much so that the federal government has decided to reduce taxes on edible oil to bring down its sky-rocketing prices in the open market. Presently, the country?s overall consumption of edible oil stands at three million tons, of which some 0.5 million tons is produced locally, while over 2.5 million tons is imported.To deal with the looming edible oil crisis, stringent efforts are needed to enhance local production of edible oil by bringing more area under cultivation of oilseed crops as well as increasing per acre yield.Our farmers mainly grow traditional crops such as rapeseed and mustard. Per hectare yield of such crops is less compared to non-traditional crops of sunflower, soybean, canola etc. for instance, average per hectare yield of rapeseed and cotton seed is 750 kg and 1244 kg compared to per hectare of sunflower, soybean and canola viz.1810 kg, 1207kg and 1246 kg, respectively. There are many other factors such as sowing of poor quality seed, late sowing, inadequate use of fertilisers and poor plant protection that are contributing to low per hectare yield of oilseed crops. It is essential to bring more area under non-traditional oilseed crops to cope with the situation.
    Seed selection is a main facet of farming and should not be based on advertising or sales but purely on yield performance. The farmers are, therefore, not afraid while using the yield trial information and look for hybrids that performed well before going for seed selection. Seed performance should be measured keeping in view certain parameters including germination capacity, physical and genetic purity, seed maturity, seed health and vigour etc. Soil type, soil nutrient status, soil moisture and weather conditions are the factors that affect these parameters.The quality seed has the potential of increasing yield on an average of 20 per cent over traditional seed used by the farmers. But certified seed is largely limited to major crops like wheat, rice and cotton. It is essential to mobilise resources for development of high yielding oilseed crop cultivars as well as agriculture extension wing to inform the farmers about the modern production technology of such crops.Inputs like fertilisers, irrigations, and pesticides vary with respect to type of cultivar, soil type, soil nutrient status, growth stage and climatic conditions. Certain non-traditional crops such as sunflower require more nutrients. The farmers should use fertilisers in balanced amount in a bid to obtain high crops produce.
    A number of sowing techniques are practiced for the cultivation of oil seed crops that have great bearing on seed germination, plant growth, development and production. Bed plantation of sunflower gives 15 per cent higher yield than traditional broadcast method and also ensures conservation of about 45 per cent water.Cultivation area under oil seed crops is small compared to other crops like wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane. During 2006-07, rapeseed/mustard, cottonseed, sunflower and canola were grown on an area of 628,000 acres, 7,599,000 acres, 937,000 acres and 359,000 acres, respectively. Small area under oil seed crops is due to competition from other crops like wheat, potato and maize.
    One way to increase acreage under oilseed crops is to carry out cultivation on marginal lands and practicing inter-cropping. Saline soils can be managed by using gypsum and sulphuric or nitric acids in proper amounts and application of fertilisers, suitable cropping pattern including green manures and deep ploughing with chisel plough to reduce the severity of salinity/sodicity.Inter-cropping of selected oilseed crops in wheat, sugarcane and potato is a best approach to enhance cultivation of oilseed crops. This would also increase cropping intensity that is less so far. Inter-cropping of sunflower in wheat, sugarcane and potato fields could yield best results.Farmers prefer to grow cereals because of sound procurement system. In case of oilseed crops, there is non-existent of sound marketing system. Therefore, the farmers are reluctant to grow these crops. An efficient system of procurement is required to promote cultivation of oil seed crops. It is also essential that marketing system should not allow importers to exploit local producers as it is a usual practice of importers to decrease the market prices of imported edible oil as the maturity period of crops approaches.
    In a nutshell, non-availability of hybrid seeds, high cost of foreign imported hybrid seed, high cost of storage, lack of drying facilities, lack of modern production technology, use of marginal lands, non-availability of short duration varieties, lack of rhizobium inoculum, low prices of farmers? produce, lopsided marketing system, and high harvesting cost are factors shaping the mindset of the farmers for not opting oilseed crops cultivation.
    By: Bilal Hassan

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