India’s soybean crop area set to rise as prices rally

India is set to grow soybeans on more land in the 2019 crop year as higher prices for the oilseed push some farmers to switch from cultivating competing commodities such as cotton and pulses, a top official of the Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA) told Reuters.

Increased production of India’s main summer-sown oilseed could help the world’s biggest vegetable oil importer trim costly purchases from Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia and Malaysia. It could also help boost Indian exports of animal feed ingredient soymeal to places such as Bangladesh, Japan, Vietnam and Iran, the official said.

Soybeans have been cultivated on 10.8 million hectares in the 2018 crop year, up 6.7 percent from the year before, according to data compiled by SOPA.

Local soybean prices have risen nearly 14 per cent to Rs 3,716 ($53.31) per 100 kg since the start of the 2018 crop year on October 1, boosted after India raised the duty on importing soyoil, palm oil and other cooking oils. “At current prices, soybeans are more lucrative than other crops. We will see a shift towards soybeans from cotton and pulses,” said Davish Jain, chairman of the Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA).

Most Indian farmers typically begin cultivating soybeans, cotton and pulses, which are rain-fed crops, in June after the arrival of the monsoon.

The western state of Maharashtra and central India’s Madhya Pradesh account for more than 80 per cent of the country’s total soybean output. Both states could receive lower-than-normal rainfall in 2019, according to private weather forecaster Skymet. Meanwhile, Argentina, the world’s third-largest soybean grower and the top soybean meal and oil exporter, is likely to produce 56 million tonnes of soybean this year, a rise of 48% from a year earlier, according to the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange. In Argentina, early planting of soybean takes place in September, while second crop beans are planted immediately after the wheat crop is harvested in November.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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