Centre should help ensure stable yield for mustard oil

Written by Sandip Das | Updated: Mar 6 2014, 08:35am hrs
The mustard oil processing industry is fragmented, consisting of many small players. Although the crops output has been fluctuating in recent years due to climatic variations, mustard oil has about 25% share in the import-dependent edible oil sector. Vivek Puri, managing director of Puri Oil Mills, which has an annual turnover of more than R250 crore, spoke to Sandip Das on issues concerning the industry.

How has production been in the last 5-6 years

Rapeseed-mustard is grown in diverse climatic conditions from the north-east to north-western hills to irrigated and rainfed conditions in the south. Production varies from year to year, depending on factors such as climatic conditions, policies and profitability, among others.

Production fluctuates, with the all-time high of 8.2 million tonne achieved in 2010-11. This year, due to a favourable climate, output is expected to be close to 8 mt. Yields have also been variable, ranging from 10 quintals per hectare in 2007-08 to 11.7 quintals per hectare in 2012-13.

How much has consumption grown in the last 5-6 years Do we export at present

Consumers are getting conscious and upgrading to naturally processed mustard oil because of its unique fatty acid profile. They are rediscovering the benefits of indigenous produce.

The consumption of mustard oil has been increasing at 20% over the last couple of years.

It is unfortunate that without any conclusive findings on the effect of erucic acid on human health, Indian mustard oil is not allowed to be marketed in international markets. All the experiments so far have been restricted to animals.

Exports are negligible, more so to the West, due to the concerns raised with regards to erucic acid. Whatever is exported has to be labeled as 'for external use only'.

The Mustard Research and Promotion Consortium, in collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Services and National Dairy Development Board, had conducted an independent study to ascertain the facts using crude mustard oil. The study did not find any adverse effect on humans.

What steps is the industry taking to promote consumption so that Indias dependence on imported edible oil comes down

Soybean, groundnut and rapeseed-mustard are the major oilseed crops in India, together contributing nearly 79% and 88% to total acreage and production, respectively. During 2012-13, rapeseed-mustard contributed 24.2 % to total oilseed production. India has developed hybrid varieties that give higher seed and oil yield oil extraction has increased to 40% from 33%.

Farmers are shifting to other crops due to thin margins and the unfavourable policies towards mustard. The Centre can help the industry by ensuring stable productivity that does not depend on cyclical patterns, and which is essential to price stability.

We need to get inspired by countries like China, the UK Germany and Canada, which have successfully raised productivity. For example, Germany clearly earmarks area for mustard cultivation. The area allocated for rapeseed- mustard cannot be used for any other crop.

Mustard oil has the potential to bring down imports of edible oil. Therefore, efforts should be made to declare mustard crop as a national crop, just as Malaysia has declared palm oil as national crop.