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AGRICULTURE

Govt must protect mustard, make Mustard Oil Devpt Board, suggests Puri
Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
The Government of India must protect mustard, which is the second most important oilseed crop after groundnut and a major winter oilseed crop. It must also establish a Mustard Oil Development Board to promote its cultivation by helping farmers extend the area under mustard cultivation, which can ultimately help in reducing the edible oil import. This was suggested by Vivek Puri, managing director, Puri Oil Mills, promoter of P Mark Mustard Oil, in an interaction with FnB News.

On an average, India has to import over 15 million tonne of edible oil each year to meet the demand-supply gap, making it the world’s largest importer of edible oils. These imports mainly comprise palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia and soybean oil from Brazil and Argentina.

Meanwhile, mustard crop saw planting at less than five per cent at 66.50 lakh hectare this year vis-a-vis last year, though the output could be close to 7.6 million tonne. Rajasthan is the top producer of mustard crop. It was estimated that the acreage under mustard at the beginning of January 2018 was close to 21 lakh hectare, down from 28 lakh hectare last year. However, the mustard acreage in Uttar Pradesh was higher at 12 lakh hectare, up from 11 lakh hectare last year.

Puri said, “That is where mustard oil comes into the picture. There is a strong case for the Government of India to treat mustard as a national crop, and, therefore, to spearhead certain landmark policy changes that could encourage farmers to focus on mustard as a cash crop, increase the area under mustard cultivation, reduce the domestic edible oil demand-supply gap by increasing the production of mustard oil, and thus, reduce edible oil imports and save valuable foreign exchange. Moreover, since mustard oil is, inherently and historically, an Indian product, such policies would dovetail seamlessly with the government’s Make in India initiative.”

“However, policies alone are not enough to drive the growth of mustard cultivation and mustard oil production on a long-term basis. The government needs to establish a Mustard Oil Development Board, which can be modelled on the lines of the American Soybean Association, which looks after the interests of all soybean stakeholders, ranging from farmers to oil manufacturers, and proactively lobbies with the Congress and the Administration to ensure that their interests are protected, not just within the United States, but in other countries too,” he added.
Similarly, Spain has established the International Olive Council as an inter-governmental agency to protect and promote the interests of olive and olive oil producers.

Another example of such a Board is the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, established by the Government of Malaysia. It is a premier government agency entrusted with the responsibility of promoting palm oil all over the world. Puri said the Government of Malaysia spearheads this promotional drive and has managed to market palm oil globally at a government-to-government level instead of merely doing so at the business-to-business (B2B) level.

“In India, mustard oil can benefit enormously from such an outreach,” he added, reiterating that the government should establish a Mustard Oil Development Board to promote the growth of mustard, both as a national crop as well as an important edible oil.

“Such a Board can ensure an integrated approach to the development of the mustard industry as a whole, expanding the area under mustard cultivation, offering remunerative prices to mustard farmers, raising productivity and enhancing value addition. The Board could also play a pivotal role in exporting mustard, mustard oil and mustard-based products to the world,” Puri stated.

He added that apart from increasing the minimum support price (MSP) or direct buying, there was an urgent need to invest into research and development and also towards value addition of mustard oilseeds. “Crops like soybean have numerous value-added products like soy milk, protein, nuggets, etc. A similar focus on value addition in mustard is urgently required,” Puri said.
 
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