The Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA) hopes that Indonesia would likely lift the ban on export of crude and RBD (refined, bleached, deodorised) palm oil by the end of this month.

During a presentation on India’s ability to meet its edible oil requirement, at the Globoil International 2022 organised in Dubai by Tefla’s under the patronage of SEA, BV Mehta, Executive Director of SEA, said Indonesia was expected to lift the ban before the end of May. The situation will turn ugly if Indonesia extends the ban on export of palm products as there is not enough supply from other origins, he said.

India imports about 6.5 lakh tonnes (lt) of palm oil a month from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries. Indonesia and Malaysia supply around 3 lt each..

Mehta said India has raised its concerns at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over a host of trade barriers built by Indonesia, including export restrictions on palm oil and import curbs on bovine meat and automotive parts, as these have adversely impacted India.

Edible oil import

He said India imported 6.54 million tonnes (mt) of edible oils in the first six months of the oil year 2021-22 (November to April), up by 4.3 per cent from the previous year.

He said that imports are likely to remain in the range of 12.5-13 mt during the current oil year 2021-22 due to factors such as record harvest of rapeseed/ mustard, improved availability of domestic oils, fall in demand due to high prices and the normal monsoon forecast.

On the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on sunflower oil, he said India imported around 1.12 mt of sunflower oil mainly from Ukraine, Russia and Argentina during the first six months of the oil year 2021-22. Only 57,000 tonnes was imported in April. There has been no shipment from Ukraine since March 27.

He said high prices of sunflower oil in the international market, reduced availability, and high domestic prices have shrunk its consumption in India. The shortfall is partially offset by other edible oils such as palmolein, soyabean oil, groundnut oil and rice bran oil.

Way forward

To reduce dependence on imports, India must step up oilseeds production from 30 mt to 45 mt by 2025-26, and 60 mt by 2030-31, Mehta said. This will help cut imports from 65 per cent to 10-15 per cent in the next 10 years.

The Government should provide thrust to the National Mission on Oilseeds with adequate funding. High oil-bearing seeds such as mustard, groundnut and sunflower can be the game changer in this regard.

He suggested growing groundnut as an intercrop with castor and other crops. Crop diversification in Punjab and Haryana, from wheat to mustard, will ease the edible oil shortage to some extent.

With these steps, India can produce 18-19 mt of edible oils by 2026, he said.