Farm laws rollback leaves edible oil industry in the lurch
The programme is aimed at increasing the local production of mustard, groundnut, and soybean to reduce dependence on imported edible oils and decrease the import bill. The farm laws were expected to encourage farmers to switch from grain to oilseeds farming. If the reforms were scrapped, they may continue growing wheat and paddy where the granaries are overflowing but the government will still be forced to purchase the grains at the minimum support price.
Talking to ET, Atul Chaturvedi, president of the Solvent Extractors’ Association (SEA) said: “Our agriculture sector needs massive reforms if it has to become competitive and improve farm incomes. Current high minimum support prices can never be sustainable as it would hurt consumers’ big time. With the repeal of the farm laws, there appears to be a lot of uncertainty over the National Mission of Oilseeds, for which we had been pursuing for long.”
India meets as much as 65% of its edible oil requirement of 22-22.5 million tonnes a year through imports — it imports 13-15 million tonnes annually. In 2020-21, the cost of imports of edible oil jumped 63% to 1.17 lakh crore, due to a hike in international prices of the commodity.
Import of edible oil is the third largest item on India’s import bill, next only to crude petroleum oils and gold.
“We hope and sincerely believe this alarming rise in import bill of edible oils would galvanise the decision-makers into launching the long-awaited National Mission on Oilseeds with adequate funding. We have to see whether the government’s decision to repeal the farm law will have an impact on the launch of the mission. With the country moving towards normalcy and edible oil consumption picking up, any delay on this count will compound the problems,” Chaturvedi added.
The SEA president said Punjab has been the front runner in bringing the green revolution in the country. “If the farm laws were not repealed, then Punjab could have become the leader in the yellow revolution by increasing the mustard acreage, which is the need of the hour,” he said.
Meanwhile, the initial sowing report coming in for mustard and other rabi oilseeds seems to be encouraging. The latest sowing report as on November 18, 2021 indicates about 26.06 million hectares covered in rabi sowing compared with 23.93 million hectares during the same period last year. Mustard planting has increased by nearly 30% and reached 6.52 million hectares compared with 4.99 million hectares a year earlier. The high price of mustard during the sowing season has encouraged farmers to expand the area under mustard cultivation.