The Indian edible oil industry is the world’s fourth-largest after the US, China and Brazil, accounting for close to 9 per cent of global oilseeds production. India’s consumption of edible oils has seen a steady rise due to increasing household incomes, growing population and health awareness.
Unfortunately, this increase in demand has not been matched by an increase in production of oilseeds in the country.
As a result of low productivity of 1,153 kg per hectare, production from 28.53 million hectares is just 33 million tonnes. This provides poor returns to farming communities in the dry lands of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
According to an estimate by the Solvent Extractors Association (SEA) of India, per capita consumption in the current per capita consumption of oilseeds in India is 15 kg per annum and is projected to reach 18 kg per annum by 2019 and 22.8 kg per annum by 2025.
Faced with declining arable land and challenges such as climate change, India must look at ways to increase productivity of oilseeds to bridge the demand-supply gap.
A viable way to bridge this gap is to pursue plant biotechnology. Plant biotechnology has successfully increased yield in 29 agriculturally important countries including China, the US, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa for close to two decades.
In most cases, yields have gone up by an average of 24-35 per cent. Fortunately for India, our agriscientists are engaged in groundbreaking work, applying biotechnology in the development of mustard, groundnut and soyabean. There has also been a demonstrable rise in yield of cottonseed in India through this innovation. For a country like India, biotechnology can prove to be revolutionary, expediting the journey to edible oil security. Yield can also be improved through the judicious and simultaneous application of several other methods, such as improving the planting material of oilseeds and adopting better agronomic practices. Research and commercialisation of biotech oilseeds can address the pressing need for higher oilseed productivity. Rather than focusing on short term solutions, India needs a far-sighted approach.
Improved oilseed yield also has other collateral benefits. It results in the increased production of oilmeals that are used to feed dairy animals and poultry.
This translates into improvement in both the quality and quantity of protein rich foods such as milk, eggs, and poultry meat. For a country that is poised for further growth and progress, this collateral benefit of national health and wellbeing is critical.
Source: Business Line