India is the fifth largest vegetable oils economy globally, next to Brazil, the USA, China, and Argentina but contributes only 7 per cent of the world’s production. During 1988-89 to 1997-98 import of edible oils has increased by 310 %, which made India one of the largest importers of edible oils in the world. Today 60% of the current domestic demand is met through imports! The Economic Survey – 2021 projected a growth rate of 3.4% per annum in cooking oil imports until 2030.
Oilseeds hold a premier position in India’s agricultural economy and are one of the most important crops in terms of area and production. The last decade (2009-10 to 2019-20) saw the production of oilseeds increase but only by 25%, while the import increased by more than 700%. In India, currently, oilseeds are grown over 27.04 million hectares with a total production of 33.42 million tonnes and productivity of 1.27 tons/ha. The states of Rajasthan (20.30 %), Gujarat (19.94%), and Madhya Pradesh (19.66 %) are the leading producers of oilseeds.
Seed industry can play an important role in enhancing oil seed production by taking a multi-pronged approach (Fig 1).
The private seed industry has not invested much in the oilseeds which is either due to no incentives or technological barriers. Public Private Partnership of seed companies will lead to better flow of operations in terms of research and commercialization. In 2021, the ICAR-Directorate of Rapeseed-Mustard Research (DRMR) has signed MoU with Advanta Seeds and Star Agriseeds for the non-exclusive Licensing of the Rapeseed-Mustard Hybrid NRCHB506, a high yielding hybrid. More such hybrids of oilseed crops need to be commercialized for reducing the country’s import dependency. Similarly, development of disease and pest resistant varieties will reduce the yield reduction to pest attack.
The development of improved processing plants under Make in India and their partnership with different Farmer Producer Organisations will enable the backward linkages and play a crucial role in boosting domestic production. The demand of tree-based oilseeds has risen by their usage in unconventional products viz Sal Seed used in chocolates. With the policy support from the government, improvement in collection mechanisms and development of improved varieties, tree-based oilseeds can also significantly contribute to vegetable oil production and reduce country’s dependence on imports.
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