2/2/05 Oilmandi INDIA - "Import of oilseeds is better than having toimport the finished product."
THE Agriculture Ministry is set to announce a comprehensive oilseedspolicy that would spell out incentives to increase the acreage fordifferent oil-yielding crops and make the country self-reliant in thesector."I think it is not proper that we are importing nearly 45 per cent of ouredible oil requirement. To increase the acreage and yield of oilseedscrops, my Ministry will come out with a comprehensive policy in the nexttwo to three months," the Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, saidinaugurating the second phase of the Adani-Wilmar promoted 2,200 tonnes aday edible oil refinery.The Minister said the Government had already taken steps to encourageoilseeds production by increasing the support price.The policy would also address credit requirements of farmers in an effortto encourage them to grow oilseeds, he said.The country consumes nearly 110 lakh tonnes of oil annually, which isexpected to rise to 150 lakh tonnes by 2010. Due to lack of domesticproduction, 45-50 lakh tonnes oil was being imported each year."While I am personally against import of oilseeds, it is better thanhaving to import the finished product. My Ministry is looking at steps toease oilseed imports so that crushing and refining could provideemployment in the country," the Minister said.Mr Pawar, however, did not specify whether his Ministry had recommendedany duty cut to ease oilseed imports.The industry claims it is unremunerative to import oilseeds as of nowbecause of stiff duties, strict phyto-sanitary norms and the requirementof the seeds to be imported in split form.For the Budget, Mr Pawar said the Agriculture Ministry had identifiedcertain thrust areas for the growth of the sector.These include efforts to increase crop yields, promotion of horticultureand minor irrigation schemes.The Agriculture Ministry had also suggested a new promotion and regulatorybody for the fisheries sector on the lines of the National DairyDevelopment Board and had decided to support genetic upgradation of cattlein the country, the Minister added.Earlier, Mr Pawar inaugurated the second phase of the Adani-Wilmar edibleoil refinery, built with an investment of Rs 300 crore.Post-expansion, the installed capacity of the plant has gone up from 1,000tonnes per day to 2,200 tonnes per day. Adani Wilmar Ltd, a 50:50 jointventure between the Adani Group and Wilmar of Singapore, now has aninstalled capacity in excess of 3,000 tonnes per day in four locationsacross the country. The company is also set to commission a600-tonnea-a-day edible oil refinery in Sri Lanka in the next couple ofmonths, according to Mr Gautam Adani, the Chairman of the group.Favours breaking APMCs' monopoly: Mr Pawar said the Centre favouredbreaking the monopoly of agriculture produce marketing committees (APMCs)in selling farm produce in an effort to ensure better prices to farmersand end-users."I feel that the monopoly of APMCs should be broken so that the privatesector can directly sell agricultural produce," Mr Pawar said.Infact, even the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development(Nabard) had suggested that the APMCs should not have the monopoly rightsto market agricultural produce, he said."If the private sector can source products directly from the farmers, boththe farmers and the end-consumers can benefit. We have recently written tothe (Gujarat) State Government to allow farmers to directly sell theirproduce if they get better prices," the Nabard Chief General Manager(Gujarat), Mr Bhawar Puri, told.Mr Puri said farmers were often unable to approach an APMC as they werecontrolled by traders and getting a fair price was not possible.Also, small farmers found it difficult to sell smaller quantities of theirproduce to meet any urgent cash requirements, Mr Puri added.