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Wednesday, Jan 16, 2002

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Mustard output set to recover

M.R. Subramani

CHENNAI, Jan. 15

THE country's mustard production is set to recover this crop year (Nov 2001-Oct 2002) by over 30 per cent on larger plantings and improved weather conditions.

According to various estimates, mustard production could range between 48 lakh tonnes and a little over 54 lakh tonnes.

"Mustard production could easily be around 54 lakh tonnes as of now. The sowing has been good and indications are that the weather has been favourable so far," the Central Organisation for Oil Industry and Trade (COOIT) Secterary-General, Mr K.M.L. Chhabra, told Business Line.

A final picture would emerge only in February, he said, adding that while the crop had been receiving good sunshine, there had been no incidents of frost so far.

This year's mustard crop projections are against a production of 36 lakh tonnes last year. During 1999-2000, the production was 54 lakh tonnes. Last year, mustard was hit by adverse weather condition and failure of the south-west monsoon in the growing areas. Mustard is grown in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the production could rise 30 per cent to 48 lakh tonnes.

"The gain would lift India's total 2001-02 oilseeds supply to an estimated 18.6 million (186 lakh) tonnes, 17 per cent higher than last year's results," the USDA said last week.

Last season, oilseeds output touched a nine-year low of 159 lakh tonnes. Though an improvement has been projected this season, it would still be below the 200 lakh-tonne margin, which was achieved during the 1999-2000 season. The country's record oilseed production was during 1998-99 when it touched 247.3 lakh tonnes.

Official statistics said as of November 30, mustard sowing had been completed in 45.8 lakh hectares, much higher than last year.

USDA has corroborated this. "Early rains and favourable soil moisture permitted the timely (October) seeding of an estimated 52.5 lakh hectares of rapeseed (mustard). Most of the crop is currently in the flowering stage and reportedly in excellent condition," it said.

However, the growers were hoping for winter rains for achieving normal yield as the plants had entered the crucial pod setting stage.

Mr Chhabra of COOIT said: "There has been no distress signal till now."

Meanwhile, mustard prices are ruling steady as compared to the prices last weekend. On Tuesday, they were quoted at Rs 12,700-13,800 a tonne against Rs 13,400 during the weekend. For the week ending January 4, the prices ruled at Rs 13,250 a tonne.

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