Reuters – Indian farmers are likely to expand their soybean-planting area by more than a tenth in 2021 as record-high prices for the oilseed could prompt some to switch from cultivating competing commodities such as cotton and pulses, industry officials said.
Increased production of India’s main summer-sown oilseed could help the world’s biggest vegetable oil importer trim costly purchases of palm oil, soyoil and sunflower oil from Indonesia, Malaysia, Argentina and Ukraine.
It could also boost Indian exports of animal feed ingredient soymeal to places such as Bangladesh, Japan, Vietnam and Iran, industry officials said.
“Farmers have realized exceptionally good prices this year. There could be 10 to 12 per cent higher area under soybean,” said Davish Jain, chairman of the Soybean Processors Association of India.
Local soybean prices have more than doubled since the start of the 2020-21 marketing year on Oct. 1 and hit a record high of 8,100 rupees (US$111) per 100 kg last month on a sharp rise in soymeal exports.
Soybean competes with pulses, corn and cotton in some areas and currently the oilseed is offering better returns than the competing crops, said Govindbhai Patel, head of trading firm G.G. Patel & Nikhil Research Co.
“Soybean production depends on rainfall patterns. If the monsoon comes on time and remains conducive, we can expect higher production,” Patel said.
Indian farmers typically begin cultivating soybeans, cotton and pulses, which are rain-fed crops, in June after the arrival of the monsoon.
The country is likely to receive an average amount of rain in the 2021 monsoon, the state-run weather office said last month.
Indian farmers planted soybean on 11.83 million hectares in 2020 and produced 10.4 million tonnes, according to SOPA.
“Soybean production is set to rise in 2021. That will help in reducing edible oil imports,” said Sandeep Bajoria, chief executive of Sunvin Group, a vegetable oil broker.