In a first, India is all set to import 1.2 mn tonne of genetically modified soyameal, used as livestock feed, after the environment ministry and DGFT cleared the air on the GM issue, an official said
In a first, India is all set to import 12 lakh tonne of genetically modified soyameal, used as livestock feed, after the environment ministry and DGFT cleared the air on the GM issue, a senior Animal Husbandry and Dairying Ministry official said on 16th August.
Meanwhile, the food ministry — after taking a call on this issue in a review meeting on prices and availability of essential commodities — asked the DGFT and other concerned departments to immediately facilitate the import of 12 lakh tonne of soyameal.
The imports are necessary as skyrocketing prices of soyameal have made the livestock feed costlier, affecting farmers associated with the poultry, dairy and aqua industry.
Soyameal is a protein-rich solid leftover raw material after extracting oil from soyabean seed, the new crop of which is expected to arrive from October.
“Currently, there is no ban on import of soyameal, including GM soyameal. However, the industry wanted clarification on the GM issue before placing the orders,” the official told PTI.
The environment ministry clarified on August 6 that since the de-oiled cake per se obtained after crushing GM soyabean does not contain any living modified organism, it has no objection to import of soya cake or meal from an environmental angle, he said.
The official said there are three types of GM foods, one with Genetically Modified Organism (GMO), second with Living Modified Organism (LMO) and third with Non-Living Modified Organism (NLMO).
“The soyameal is NLMO. The Environment Ministry has said it has no impact on human and animal health as well as on the environment,” he added.
Further, the clarification was sought from the food safety regulator FSSAI, which said “it regulates food and not feed. And it does not have any objection,” he said.
Even the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) — a nodal body that administers imports and exports — said GM soyameal is not in a ‘restricted category’ and therefore has no concern if imports take place, the official added.
Asked if imports have begun, the official said, “GM soyameal is not in a restricted category, still we got clarification from concerned departments. Traders have started placing orders.”
Other interested parties are thinking that import of GM soyabean seed has been allowed, but it is not, he said.
The official said the industry has estimated import of 12 lakh tonne of soyameal to meet the domestic shortages till the new crop arrives from October onwards.
The imports could take place from countries like Argentina, Europe and the US, he added.
Seeking clarity, Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA) Executive Director B V Mehta said, “It is better DGFT clarifies publicly that GM soyameal (with NLMO) is allowed so that traders can enter into contracts without fear of getting their shipments stuck.”
He also blamed speculators for the rise in prices of soyameal. In the last few months, the domestic price of soyameal has increased from Rs 45,000 per tonne to Rs 80,000 per tonne on August 13, almost close to the level of soyabean price of Rs 87,000 per tonne.
All India Poultry Breeders Association Secretary and Indian Broiler Group Director GulrezAlam said, “We are importing.”
Earlier, India was not required to import soyameal as it had enough supplies and had price parity. But now there is an abnormal situation as the domestic prices of soyameal are at par or higher than soyabean, he said.
According to the agriculture ministry’s fourth advance estimate, soyabean production is pegged to be higher at 12.89 million tonne for the 2020-21 crop year (July-June) as against 11.22 million tonne in the previous year.
Industry experts said that if the government estimates are correct, then there should not be any shortages.
Meanwhile, the country’s soyameal exports are on and about 17 lakh tonne has been shipped since October 2020. The annual domestic demand of soyameal is 60 lakh tonne, according to the SEA.