India earmarks Rs 11,000 crore for the new National Edible oil Mission

The government has earmarked Rs 11,000 crore for a new mission to ensure self-sufficiency in edible oil production at a time when India’s dependence on expensive imports has driven retail oil prices to new highs. This financial outlay for the National Mission on Edible Oil-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) will be over a five-year period, Agriculture Ministry officials confirmed.

“Today, when India is being recognised as a major agricultural exporting country, then it is not appropriate for us to depend on imports for our edible oil needs,” said Prime Minister Modi during a virtual event to release the ninth instalment of PM Kisan scheme.

In response to a Rajya Sabha query in February 2020, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal had said the NMEO proposal would aim to reduce import dependence from 60% to 45% by 2024-25, by increasing domestic edible oil production from 10.5 million tonnes to 18 million tonnes, a 70% growth target. It projected a 55% growth in oilseed production, to 47.8 million tonnes. It is not clear whether these targets have changed under the final version of the mission.

Oil palm developers, who have been demanding for a stable, favourable policy to ensure sustainable growth of the edible oil crop, are pleased with the newly announced NMEO-OP. This would mean more farmers taking up oil palm and would increase the acreage. The CACP (Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices) has evolved a formula to determine the cost of cultivation of oil palm, with two variables of extracted oil and price of palm oil. According to the formula, farmers would get 80 per cent share of the total realisation (extracted oil), while the industry gets the remaining 20 per cent.

The NMEO-OP’s predecessor was the National Mission on Oil Seeds and Oil Palm, which was launched at the fag end of the UPA government’s tenure and later merged with the National Food Security Mission. Laying out its achievements in May 2020, the Agriculture Ministry said oilseed production had grown 35% from 27.5 million tonnes in 2014-15 to 37.3 million tonnes by 2020-21. Although oilseed acreage rose only 8.6% over that six year period, yields rose more than 20%.

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