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In yellow revolution, seeds of a mission

Last updated: 28 August, 2009
By Y P Gupta

Self-sufficiency in oilseeds would have a great impact on agriculture and the economy.

India’s oilseeds output in 2008-09 is estimated to be 28.16 million tonnes, which is quite deficient as the demand stood at 45.46 million tonnes. The output in 2009-10 is projected to fall due to deficient monsoon this year. It has stood at 25 million tonnes since 1998-99. Oilseeds production accounts for 7.4 per cent of the global production and is considered as the fourth-largest edible oil country in the world.

The earlier policy allowing free import of oilseeds was detrimental to the interests of oilseeds growing farmers and a set-back on development of oilseeds for achieving self-sufficiency. As a result, the country remained dependent on imported edible oils. There has been a significant increase in imports of crude palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia.

The ‘yellow revolution’ in oilseeds owes its earlier success to a spectacular increase in output to 24.75 million tonnes in 1998-99 from 10.83 million tonnes in 1985-86. But thereafter, we have not been able to achieve self-sufficiency in oilseeds. Current production is not enough to meet the needs of cooking oils of our growing population.

The annual demand has risen to over 125 lakh tonnes whereas production is hardly around 75 lakh tonnes. The shortage is met by imports every year from Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia. Annual oilseeds imports, which account for about five million tonnes, cost Rs 15,873.6 crore in 2008-09 from Rs 10,942.54 crore in 2007-08. It is estimated that the demand in 2020 may touch 20.8 million tonnes, requiring a production of 60 million tonnes of oilseeds, and that the per capita oil consumption may rise to 16 kg annually.

Consumption

Edible oil is an important constituent of the Indian diet. Beside being a source of energy, they add a special flavour and palatability to food. The annual per capita consumption is 11.1 kg against the world average of 14.5 kg and the average of 26 kg in developed countries. Edible oil consumption is likely to increase with rising of per capita income. However, the daily in-take of fat should not contribute more than 15-20 per cent calories.
There is potential to produce about 25 lakh tonnes of oil from non-conventional sources, but hardly about eight lakh tonnes are being utilised. It is important to work out a strategy to exploit maximum potential from these sources.

The spectacular success of the yellow revolution in 1998-99 could be attributed to an increase in the cultivable area to about 26 million hectares and an integrated approach that gave over-riding priority through a technology mission. Aimed at accelerating self-reliance in oilseeds, the approach adopted envisaged developing and taking modern technological inputs to farmers, thereby providing them incentive prices and storage and processing facilities.

The National Dairy Board was entrusted with the task to develop groundnut production in Gujarat through farmers’ oilseeds societies. The national Oilseeds and Vegetable Oils Development Board was entrusted to popularise oilseeds in non-traditional areas. Also, an oilseeds production thrust project was initiated to accelerate production of four major oilseeds — groundnut, mustard-rapeseed, soybean and sunflower.

Low productivity

The integrated oilseeds development programme was initiated in different states with more than 3,000 oilseed societies involving 13 lakh farmers and 25 lakh hectares of land. Despite these efforts, our oilseeds productivity continues to be as low as 944 kg per hectare when compared to the world level at 1,632 kg per hectare.

At present, there is not much scope to expand the cultivable area under oilseeds. The continuing shortage of cooking oils would suggest that the Oilseeds Technology Mission and growing oil palms have had little impact. These energy-rich crops suffer from a number of constraints as they are grown in poor environment and are susceptible to pests and diseases. Besides, farmers preferred to grow high-yielding cereals to earn higher profits. However, in the recent past, improved technology has been developed to boost output.

As major crops, oilseeds meet the country’s needs for edible oils. A second yellow revolution is crying need of the hour. Also, a technical breakthrough in dryland farming is needed to maximise yield, productivity and farm income. Achieving the aim of making the country self-sufficient in oilseeds would have a great impact on agriculture and the economy and would help reduce dependence on foreign markets.


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