Oilseed Crops in India Seen Climbing to Cut Reliance on Imports

Oilseed output in India, the world’s second-biggest cooking oils importer, may increase this year as the best start to monsoon in more than a decade spurs sowing of soybeans and peanuts, according to a government official.

Production will increase from 30.72 million metric tons in the year ended June 30, Agriculture Commissioner J.S. Sandhu said in an interview in New Delhi, without giving a precise estimate for output this year. A bigger harvest may help India cut reliance on cooking oil imports, he said.

Rising production may boost exports of oilseed meals and trim imports of palm and soybean oils to meet a supply gap. India is the world’s biggest cooking oil consumer after China and meets more than half of its demand through imports. It buys palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia and soybean oil from the U.S., Brazil and Argentina.

“Even if production goes higher, there may be a marginal decline in imports as per capita consumption is increasing,” said Prasoon Mathur, senior manager at Religare Commodities Ltd. “The availability of all oils will improve. The output can increase maximum 5 percent.”

India imported 9.9 million tons of cooking oils in the 12 months ended Oct. 31, 18 percent more than a year earlier, according to the Solvent Extractors Association of India. Purchases advanced 10 percent to 6.2 million tons in the seven months to May, data from the association showed.

‘Timely Sowing’

Farmers planted oilseeds on 11.02 million hectares (27.2 million acres) as of July 5 compared with 2.65 million hectares during the same period in 2012, according to the Agriculture Ministry. Soybean planting may exceed last year’s 10.9 million hectares as sowing gains in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra states, the biggest growers, Sandhu said. The oilseed was planted on 8.3 million hectares as of July 5 compared with 1.9 million hectares during the same period in 2012.

“Timely sowing and well-distributed rainfall will increase the yields,” Sandhu said. The weather in August will be crucial for the oilseed crops, he said.

The monsoon rainfall was 32 percent more in June than a 50-year average considered normal for the month and the highest since 2001, according to the India Meteorological Department.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.