Monsoon deficit can up edible oil import bill to $14 bn: Assocham

New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) Deficient monsoon is building pressure on edible oils, which may send India’s import of key cooking ingredient soaring to $14 billion in the current financial year, a study by industry body Assocham said here on Thursday.

The deficit in average rainfall so far for 2015-16 is 12 percent, according to the latest available information.

“Therefore, assuming that the production of oil seeds for 2015-16 remains at the level of 2014-15 and anticipating a rise in demand, vegetable oils imports would reach around $14 billion for 2015-16, which was around $10 billion last year,” said the study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).

These imports were $7.2 billion in 2013-14, increasing by over 46 percent in the following year.

India’s import of edible oils worth $10 billion in 2014-15 was the highest until then as the rains were deficient in the oil seeds growing states last year as well.

“However, a new record of edible oils import is going to be made this year as production of oilseeds in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu is expected to drop,” the study said.

“If we look at and compare the figures for the last five years, vegetable oil imports have reached their highest level in 2014-15. During the same year, the country experienced a 12 percent rainfall deficit which resulted in significant decline in domestic oilseed production,” it said.

It said growth in the domestic production of oilseeds has not been able to keep pace with the increasing demand in the country.

Low and unstable yields of most oilseed crops, and uncertainty in returns to investment, which result from the continuing cultivation of oilseeds in rainfed, high risk production environments, are the factors leading to wide demand-supply gap.

“A vibrant and efficient processing sector is a pre-requisite for the optimum growth and development of oilseed economy. India’s oilseed processing sector has been plagued by a slew of technological and policy issues culminating in the existence of a processing sector low in efficiency and capacity utilisation,” Assocham secretary general D.S. Rawat said.

“If the oilseed cultivators have to be linked in an economically viable and sustainable manner to the oilseed value chain, the role of oilseed processing units cannot be underestimated,” he added.

Farmers mostly cultivate oil seeds on un-irrigated land.

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