India’s maize production is expected to grow at a CAGR of 1.34 per cent, lower than the pace of growth in consumption which is pegged at a CAGR of 1.82 per cent during 2021-31, according to a report. Further, the share of maize used in animal feed is expected to go up to about 54 per cent by 2031 from the current 51 per cent, potentially bringing the focus to genetically modified crops.

The annual consumption of maize in the country was 29.66 million tonnes (mt) in 2021, according to a research report released by YES Bank and FICCI on April 18.

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In total consumption of maize, 29 per cent is used as food while biofuel production has a 1.4 per cent share. The report has projected the share of food in total consumption to drop to 25 per cent by 2031. “If the government continues to implement positive policy changes with respect to ethanol blending, the usage of maize for biofuel production could also increase,” it said while projecting the share of biofuel at 4.5 per cent in consumption by 2031.

Demand for meat, animal protein

Currently the country has total installed capacity to produce 1,082 crore litres of ethanol per annum, out of which 723 crore litres (67 per cent) are in molasses-based units and 359 crore litres (33 per cent) in grain-based plants. Some sugar mills have dual feed ethanol plants, which allow them to shift to grains in case there is lower availability of sugarcane. Many grain-based plants use rice as their feedstock as it is cheaper than maize.

The government targets to take the ethanol blending programme to 20 per cent by 2025 for which there will be a requirement of about 1,016 crore litres, which can be achieved with current level of installed capacity provided all plants run on 100 per cent capacity.

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The YES Bank-FICCI joint report also said that growing economy and expanding middle-income population have been driving the demand for meat/animal protein (poultry and livestock sector) over the past years, resulting in increased demand for maize.

In India, maize is the third most important crop after rice and wheat and is predominantly a kharif crop. It accounts for nearly 10 per cent of the food production in the country (average of the years 2015-16 to 2019-20) and is the fastest growing cereal crop in India. Between 2010-11 and 2020-21, its acreage, production and yield have increased at a CAGR of 1.5 per cent, 3.8 per cent and 2.3 per cent, respectively.

GM maize

Though the report has not suggested if genetically modified (GM) maize be adopted in the country, nevertheless it said, “India has not yet permitted commercial production of GM maize. However, the government has recently approved the environmental release of DMH-11, a GM mustard variety...If this initiative proves to be successful, it could potentially pave the way for introduction of GM maize in the future.”

Many developing countries are increasingly adopting GM maize, it said, as they recognise its importance in achieving required production levels and providing economic, environmental and social benefits. In India, GM maize is already in various stages of regulatory field trials for local data generation.