Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Puri Oil Mills chief sees need for national policy to promote mustard
Friday, 28 December, 2018, 12 : 00 PM [IST]
Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
If the Government of India wants to double the incomes of farmers by 2022, it will need to have a national policy dedicated to the promotion of mustard as a crop and focussing on the needs of mustard farmers. This was stated by Puri Oil Mills’ chief Vivek Puri.

“The agricultural, economic and nutritional importance of mustard is enormous in the Indian context. It is the country’s most important winter oilseed crop. The area under mustard cultivation is significant – close to 70 lakh hectare – producing 6.82 million tonne in 2015-16, with the estimate for 2016-17 being 7.9 million tonne. And millions of farmers and their families derive their livelihood from it,” he added.

Groundnut is grown on just 6.39 lakh hectare – or less than a tenth of mustard’s acreage. Linseed is grown on 4.01 lakh hectare, sunflower seed on 1.74 lakh hectare, sesame seed on 0.68 lakh hectare and safflower on 0.62 lakh hectare.

“Mustard oil is an innately Indian cooking medium, having been around for thousands of years. That means that mustard and mustard oil are already aligned with the government’s Make in India initiative,” said Puri.

Currently, the government does not have a policy focussed on promoting mustard as an attractive cash crop for farmers. Ideally, such a policy should expand the area under mustard cultivation, reduce the gaping demand-supply gap by increasing domestic production of mustard oil, and ease the dependence on edible oil imports which are, on an average, around 15 million tonne each year. That is a foreign exchange outgo of a whopping Rs 77,000 crore. However, this year’s data indicates a significant drop for the first time in decades.

The proposed policy should look at ways to make the National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange Limited (NCDEX) more farmer-friendly. Earlier this year, the finance ministry flagged off a modality that offers agricultural commodity options which would enable farmers to protect themselves against adverse price changes and minimise their risks.

However, farmers, and in particular, mustard farmers, have not been able to get the minimum prices and remunerative returns despite assurances.

A comprehensive National Mustard Policy would also need to establish clearly-defined norms and guidelines for the introduction of GM (genetically-modified) varieties of mustard (if that were to happen in the imminent future).

Such norms should include upgrading our food testing facilities, which are, at present, not geared to detect and identify GM varieties. This would also facilitate effective labelling norms for GM products.

“At a broader level, the evolution of an effective National Mustard Policy must include infrastructure and supporting systems. For several years now, we have been recommending the establishment of an apex body by the government - a Mustard Oil Development Board, along the lines of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, the American Soybean Association and Spain’s International Olive Council,” Puri said.

The proposed Board could go a long way in ensuring an integrated approach to the development and promotion of the mustard industry and help mustard farmers obtain remunerative prices, increasing per acre productivity and enhancing value addition.

“Moreover, like its counterparts in the United States, Malaysia and Spain, the proposed Board could also promote mustard oil overseas, and lobby for the removal of unfair  constraints that exist in the US and certain EU (European Union) countries where Indian mustard oil must statutorily be labelled for external use only. Therefore, like these countries, India can become a significant foreign exchange-earner through the robust export of mustard oil,” said Puri.
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Billie Pettis 2018-12-28 12:31:07
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