India’s rapeseed output could rise, cut vegoil imports

JAIPUR, India, (Reuters) – Rapeseed output in India, the world’s biggest importer of vegetable oils, is likely to rise five percent this year as favourable weather boosted yields of the winter-sown oilseed, a leading trade body said on Wednesday.

Production is expected to stand at 7.8 million tonnes in the crop year to June 2020, the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA) told a news conference in the north-western state of Rajasthan, producer of more than half of India’s rapeseed.

“Good weather conditions in most parts of the country helped improve yields,” said B.V. Mehta, executive director of the Mumbai-based industry body, releasing a field survey.

“We have to thank conducive weather conditions for this year’s bumper crop.”

New season harvests have started trickling into the market and supplies will pick up from mid-March, Mehta said.

Farmers planted rapeseed across 6.95 million hectares (17 million acres) this year, a touch lower than last year’s 6.98 million (17.2 million acres), the SEA said.

Crop yields in 2019/20 are estimated at 1,119 kg per hectare, up from 1,075 kg per hectare the previous year, it added.

Higher rapeseed output will help India cut back expensive imports of vegetable oil, its third-biggest import item after crude oil and gold.

New Delhi imports nearly two-thirds of its vegetable oil requirements, which are rising rapidly, fuelled by an expanding population, higher income levels, and a penchant for calorie-laden curry and deep-fried food.

India has been a traditional buyer of tropical palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia and soft oils, such as soyoil, from Argentina and Brazil, to make up for a shortfall in soybean, rapeseed and peanut output.

New Delhi also imports sunflower oil from Ukraine and Russia and canola oil from Canada.

Palm oil accounts for two-thirds of India’s vegetable oil imports. But efforts to boost domestic oilseed production have come to naught, forcing India to fork out foreign exchange reserves on purchases of cooking oils and fats.

“One thing is for sure. We’ll have to raise our production, and both the industry and the government will work together to achieve that,” Mehta said.

India’s consumption of vegetable oils, including palm oil and soyoil, has trebled over the last two decades as the population grew and incomes rose, while output swelled less than a third.

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