India to launch $1.48 bln plan to raise oilseed output, cut imports

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New Delhi | Reuters – India will launch a 110 billion rupee ($1.48 billion) plan to boost domestic oilseed production to make the country self-sufficient in edible oil, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday, a move that will cut costly vegetable oil imports.

India is the world’s biggest vegetable oil importer and spends an average of $8.5-$10 billion annually on edible oil imports.

The country produces less than half of the roughly 24 million tonnes of edible oil that it consumes annually. It imports the rest, buying palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, soyoil from Brazil and Argentina, and sunflower oil, mainly from Russia and Ukraine.

India does export agricultural commodities such as sugar and rice on the world market, but domestic oilseed production is nearly six times lower than rice and wheat on average.

“The government will invest more than 110 billion rupees via the National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm to provide farmers everything possible, including better seeds and technology,” Modi said on Twitter.

“When India is emerging as a major exporter of farm goods, we should not depend on imports for our edible oil requirements,” Modi said.

India’s vegetable oil imports have surged to 15 million tonnes from 4 million only two decades ago, according to traders and industry officials. They said imports could reach 20 million by 2030, boosted by a growing population with higher incomes and a taste for calorie-laden curry and fried food.

Atul Chaturvedi, president of the Solvent Extractors Association of India, an industry body, said it was a giant step to help India to become self-sufficient in edible oil.

Earlier this year, Reuters reported that India was expected to announce a five-year plan to cut vegetable oil imports by providing farmers with financial incentives to switch to oilseeds from grains.

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