After failing to achieve the targeted oilseeds production last year, the Centre has decided to provide direct assistance worth Rs 3,000-5,000 per hectare to farmers who take up any oilseed crop as an intercropping model, so that the country’s dependence on imports of edible oil is reduced.
The assistance will be in the form of agriculture inputs like seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. The sops being planned are similar to those given to pulses farmers in the last two years.
The demand and supply gap in edible oils is huge as India imports about 60% of its edible oil requirement, mainly palm and soyabean oils. In 2016-17, 14.01 million tonne of oils worth Rs 73,048 crore were imported. Given the rising im-ports, the government had fixed 35.5 million tonne of oilseeds production in the 2017-18 crop year (July-June). But the production is estimated at 31.3 million tonne (mt) for 2017-18, nearly the same as the previous year. “The compound annual growth rate of oilseeds output is 3.89% in the past decade, which is not bad. But the the per capita consumption of edible oils is increasing at about 6% and that is the reason import has been surging every year,” a government official said. The only solution is to increase the domestic oilseeds production to meet the gap for which pulses model can be helpful, he said.
The pulses model, using the rice fallow and intercropping, helped to increase the output to 23 mt in 2016-17 from 16.35 mt in 2015-16.
The Centre has decided to merge the National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP), which was implemented from 2014-15 to 2017-18, with the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) from this crop year and will continue until 2020. The NFSM was earlier confined to rice, wheat and pulses. The scheme will continue to support seed production, distribution of minikits and seed hubs to increase the seed replacement rate, besides supporting agricultural inputs such as nutrients, machineries and equipment.
This year onwards, states are asked to increase area by adopting intercropping of oilseeds on a large scale, officials said. The focus will be to expand areas under oilseeds cultivation in non-traditional areas and states. “A separate project, Oilseeds in Non Traditional Area, will soon be formulated in consultation with states where there is potential,” the official said. “If it is achieved, we will be able to produce additional 1.50 million tonne of oilseeds from 1 million hectares,” he said. The Targeting Rice Fallow Area scheme, which was implemented only in the eastern states, will be extended to other states as well. During 2017-18, while 9.13 lakh hectares were covered under pulses, only 1.60 lakh hectares area could be increased in rice fallows of six eastern states.
In India, oilseeds are cultivated in about 25 million hectares, of which 70% are under rainfed areas. “We are considering to provide assistance for intercropping at `3,000 to `5,000 per hectare depending upon the type of intercrops,” the official said. The government has identified some possible inter-cropping in different regions — sunflower with groundnut, pigeon-pea and soybean, and castor with groundnut, pigeon-pea, cluster bean and mung-bean, among others.
By- Prabhudatta Mishra