Time to hike edible oil import duties to encourage domestic production, says Solvent Extractors Association of India

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As India’s 2010 agreement with Indonesia and Indonesia came to an end, the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA) said the government should hike Customs duty on soya, sunflower and crude palm oils.

In order to encourage domestic production, the trade body also urged the government to ban the import of refined palm oils or palmolien.

Reportedly, these are some of the short-term measures the association has submitted to the central government for making India self-sufficient in edible oils.

“No nation can afford to compromise its edible oil security to the extent of almost 70 per cent of its annual consumption. This situation calls for corrective actions to be taken up on priority,” SEA President Atul Chaturvedi said.

“Low import duties on edible oils over the years has practically made our farmers lose interest in oilseed cultivation. However, the agreements which India had signed with Indonesia and Malaysia way back in 2010 is not allowing India to raise duties. Good news is that the period of the agreements have now come to an end and India is free to raise duties,” he added.

The trade body also noted that it’s rather unfortunate and beyond comprehension, that palm is not treated as a plantation crop in India unlike other parts of the world.

“Due to this anomalous situation of not treating oil palm as a plantation crop, the private sector cannot invest in palm plantation even though huge opportunity exists in India,” it said.

It is to be noted here that India has a potential of 2 million hectares palm cultivation against the current area of only 0.3 million hectares, as per the government study.

“Huge opportunity exists. Needless to say, palm oil yields at around 4 tonnes per hectare is the highest among all oilseeds and would go a long way in reducing import dependence,” SEA said.

The potential for palm oil production in India is almost 8 million tonnes. Hence, there is a need to fix a target of bringing the minimum 1 million hectare area under oil palm in the next four years, the association said.