Agri Business

Edible oil industry makes a pitch for GM oilseeds

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on January 22, 2018

Wants govt to allow trials; reduce duty on seed imports

The Solvent Extractors’ Association of India wants the government to allow at least trial run for growing genetically modified (GM) oilseeds in the country.

Addressing the Association’s 44th annual general body meeting, Pravin Lunkad, President of SEA, said India took the bold decision to introduce new varieties of wheat to bring a green revolution and then successfully adopted Bt cotton.

Today, the need of the hour is GM crops in oilseeds, given the fact that India meets 75 per cent of its vegetable oil requirement through imports, he said.

Allaying concern on GM crop’s impact on human health, Atul Chaturvedi, Vice-President, SEA, said Amul and other milk producers are using cotton oilseed cake produced from GM crop as cattle feed and there has been no problem so far.

Allow oilseed import

With certain safeguards to protect domestic farmers, the government should lower import duty on oilseed to 5-10 per cent from 30 per cent to make seed imports viable for mills, said Lunkad.

In the last few years, oilseed production has remained stagnant at 26-28 million tonnes (mt) leading to huge shortage of raw material for domestic oil mills which are operating at 30 per cent capacity utilisation.

Terming the application of Biological Diversity Act 2002 as a sword hanging over the industry’s head, he said the State Boards formed under the Act have issued notices to many oil mills seeking 2 per cent of sales turnover as ‘benefit sharing charges’ applicable under the regulation.

Imports seen up

“The Government should clarify that oilseeds, oilcakes, oilmeals and oils are exempted from the Act. Otherwise, the oilcake producers operating at 30 per cent capacity will be deep trouble,” he said.

India will end up importing 14 mt vegetable oil worth ₹65,000 crore in the oil year ending this month.

In terms of quantity, imports will be 19 per cent higher compared to last year. The import bill would have been much higher if not for the 20 per cent fall in prices, he said. 

Oil palm plantation

Of late, the governments of Goa and Maharashtra have been promoting palm plantation and invited industry to set up processing plants, he said.

Palm plantation would be hugely beneficial for the country as it can help produce 4 tonnes of oil per hectare, which is about 10 times more than other oilseeds.

Raise import duty

Renewing his appeal to increase import duty on crude oil to 25 per cent from 7.5 per cent and on refined oil to 45 per cent from 15 per cent, Lunkad said a duty difference of 20 per cent is required between crude and refined oils so that the domestic industry can survive.

However, he said, the Government in its own wisdom raised import duty on both crude and refined oils by 5 per cent last month, he said.

Published on September 28, 2015

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