G Chandrashekhar

Kuala Lumpur, Oct. 3

INDIA'S vegetable oil consumption is likely to reach 20 million tonnes (mt) by 2010 - from an estimated 12 mt currently - and over half of the requirement will have to be imported as domestic production increases continue to trail demand growth, Mr Nadir B. Godrej of Godrej Industries Ltd told delegates at the PIPOC 2005 conference here.

In his presentation on assessment of Indian oilseeds policy including self-sufficiency and import prospects for palm oil in India, Mr Godrej regretted that the Technology Mission on Oilseeds established in 1986 had lost both steam and focus even as oilseeds output in the country has stagnated and import dependence on oils has risen.

Sharing his views in poetic form - which has by now become Mr Nadir Godrej's hallmark - the industrialist said India could very well grow oil palm provided irrigation facilities are extended.

He also argued in favour of diversifying from cereals to oilseed crops to meet the growing demand arising from both income growth and population growth.

On the oft-repeated complaint of Malaysians that lower rate of Customs duty on imported soyabean oil (45 per cent) discriminated against palm oil that attracts 80 per cent duty in India, he reminded the audience that in the mid-90s, the US negotiated with India and got the bound rate fixed at 45 per cent for soyabean oil.

On the other hand, Asean countries including Malaysia remained indifferent to India's growth potential and appetite for food commodities, as a result of which the bound rate of duty on palm oil was fixed at a high 300 per cent.

India has, however, been generous in charging only 80 per cent duty on palm oil, considerably below the bound rate, he added.

On outlook for palm oil, Mr Godrej expressed optimism that with crude oil prices soaring, higher vegetable oil demand for purpose of biodiesel would translate to better prices for palm.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 4, 2005)
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