In a bid to reduce the country's dependency on edible oil imports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced a national mission on edible oils and oil palm, with an investment of over Rs 11,000 crore for building the ecosystem to boost the domestic production.
With palm oil having 55 per cent share in total edible oil imports, the National Mission on Edible Oil-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) would ensure that farmers get all facilities, from quality seeds to technology to promote cultivation of palm and other oil seeds, he said.
Modi made this announcement after virtually releasing the ninth installment of Rs 19,500 crore to 9.75 crore beneficiary farmers under the government's flagship scheme PM-KISAN.
"While India has become self-sufficient or Aatmanirbhar in production of rice, wheat and sugar, but it was not enough as the country is dependent on huge imports of edible oils," he said.
He said farmers can replicate what has been achieved in pulses production, which rose almost by 50 per cent in the last six years.
"The kind of work we did in pulses, and even in the past in wheat and paddy, we need to make same efforts to boost the domestic production of edible oils," he said, adding that aggressive effort is need of the hour to become self-reliant in edible oil.
He urged farmers to take the NMEO-OP as a pledge for achieving self-reliance in edible oil and said more than Rs 11,000 crore will be invested in the cooking oil ecosystem under this mission.
Further, Modi said the country spent thousands of crores of rupees on edible oil imports and that rather should go to farmers.
Stating that India for the first time has reached among the top-10 countries of the world in terms of farm exports, the prime minister said, "The country has set new records of agri-exports during the corona period.
"Today, when India is becoming recognised as a big agri-exporting country, it is not right to stay dependent on imports for our needs of edible oil."
He said oil palm farming can be promoted in the North East and Andaman and Nicobar region where the cultivation can be undertaken easily.
The increase in cultivation of oil palm will not only benefit farmers but also consumers who would get quality cooking oils at a cheaper rate.
Besides, it would benefit processors and entire value chain, thereby creating job opportunities, he said.
Modi said many small farmers would benefit from oil palm cultivation with higher yields and better returns.
India imports about 60 per cent of its annual edible demand of about 25 million tonnes.
The country had imported 13.17 million tonnes in the 2019-20 oil year (November-October).
Much of the shipments were palm oils, as per the data maintained by the industry body SEA.
It may be noted here that retail prices of edible oils have been on rise for last few months.
Average prices of edible oils in retail markets have risen by up to 52 per cent in July this year compared to the year-ago period, the government informed Parliament on July 30.
To check prices, the government has taken several steps including reduction in import duty on crude palm oil till September and allowed unrestricted shipments of refined palm oils.
Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters