sunflower oil

The Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry informed the Rajya Sabha in the first week of  August  that the sharpest rise in retail  price of edible oils has been recorded in 2021 on a year-on-year basis since 2016. The price of sunflower oil this year has increased by 41%, folowed by a rise of 37% for soyabean oil, 35% for palmolin oil, 29% for mustard oil, 17% for groundnut oil and 30% for the so-called vanaspati ( hydrogenated oil). All this is in comparison to the previous year 2020. Clearly the price rise is more for those oils in which a big share is imported. So the gains of higher price are going more to importing traders or other countries and not to our farmers. There has been a significant increase in imports price and a very big increase in the total import bill of India for edible oils this year is already being predicted by industry and trade sources.

However to talk merely in terms of the price rise in imports or exogenous factors s to miss the real story which concerns the big rise in the  share of edible oil demand being  met by imports. Although India’s livelihood scene is led by farming and in particular India has a very rich heritage of cultivation and processing of several indigenous oilseeds, it is a shame that India has to import around about 60 per cent of its edible oil requirements today.

Traditionally, farmers in vast areas of India have  rich experience in cultivating several oilseed  crops including groundnut, mustard, sesame, coconut, not to mention cottonseed and several minor but nutritious oilseeds ( such as those grown by tribal and hill communities). These various oilseeds used to be well-integrated in the overall crop-rotations and mixed farming systems, related also to soil conservation needs. Linked to this cultivation of oilseeds were a very large number of cottage and small-scale oilseed processors. When oilseed was processed close to villages which produced them, edible oil obtained was more nutritious and villagers could  also have better access to the by-product of oilcakes needed for dairy animals, increasing milk production, resulting in more local production of ghee, considered a very healthy cooking medium in villages. Oilseed crops gave several other residual nutritious edibles in other forms including nuts and seeds, raw and ripe coconut slices, coconut water , green leafy vegetables ( like the famous sarson da saag of Punjab ). Good quality edible oils also have health uses as medicine and for massaging body.

With this rich heritage India could easily have emerged as a world leader in healthy edible oils, providing the base for sustainable livelihoods of a very large number of farmers and small-scale processors.   Instead it has emerged as one of the biggest importers of edile oils. What went wrong?

With the hurried introduction of the so-called green revolution, many time honored rotations and mixed farming systems were rudely disrupted, providing a seback to oilseed crops in some areas. As edible oil shortages started appearing, big businessmen used these opportunities to import cheaper oils for producing hydrogenated oil, calling it vanaspti oil despite this being harmful for health. As big business interests started seeing more profits in importing cheaper and less healthier oils like palm oil, farmers growing indigenous oils started having difficulties in getting a fair price for their crop ( despite consumer preference for indigenous oilseeds) due to the ready aailability of much cheaper alternatives. Hence the cheaper imported oils were used as a disincentive to grow indigenous oils, a trend which went on increasing and was facilitated greatly by the WTO trade regime. Indigenous oilseed production started stagnating at a time of increasing overall need, and at the same time edible oils became less healthier.  With the introduction of genetically modified cottonseed oil, a by-product of the spread of Bt cotton, health hazards associated with edible oils increased further. It is suspected that some GM edible oils have also been imported,and the GM lobby made very strong efforts to introduce GM mustard crops as well, a move whoch would have been disastrous for health and nutrition if it had succeeded ( it came very close to succeeding as the GM lobby is very strong in the present union government and these attempts are still continuing).

Once the oilseed sector had got dominated very heavily by imports, it was only a matter of time when any big increase in the price of imports would lead to a big rise overal in edible oil price in India, as big business and traders interests have also got used to squeezing big profits out of trade deals. In this situation a new demand has come up for the government to reduce edible oil price for consumers by reducing edible oil import duties significantly. However the real policy option is not to facilitate imports but to launch a big program to provide many sided encouragement to farmers to increase organic production of oilseeds and emerge as a world leader in oilseeds. To make this a reality it is very important to reduce the grip of big business and importer lobbies, and to keep away the GM crop/food lobby for ever.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Man Over Machine ( Gandhian Ideas For Our Times) and When the Two Streams Met ( Freedom Movement of India).


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One Comment

  1. samir sardana says:

    CHAIWALA’S HINDOOOSTHAN – IS A NATION WHICH LEVIES THE HIGHEST TAXES ON FUEL OILS AND EDIBLE OILS – THE 2 THINGS THAT INDIANS CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT !

    Some misconceptions about the edible oils of Chaiwala !

    There are TWO “C”‘s which nailed the coffin of India !

    1st = Chaiwala
    2nd = COVID

    The Chaiwala has NO revenues – and the only option,is to tax fuel and edible oils !

    That is Y the edible oil rates in India,are the highest in the world !

    The Crux in the edible oil market,is PALM oil – which INDIA JUST DOES NOT HAVE !

    All the rest India has – BUT NOT IN ENOUGH QUANTITIES – AND WILL NEVER BE,AS THERE IS NO SCALE OR QUALITY IN FARMING !dindooohindoo

    Indian farmers are lazy dullards,and have neither the capital/technology nor the brain,to do oil seeds farming.

    Palm Oil,Mustard/Soyabean/Sunflower/Castor oil etc.,are grown in different geographies,and there is no fundamental link in their prices – but in the COVID time, and in the monkey land of Chaiwala,there is a link

    Palm is the Poor Man’s edible oil – but Palm Oil harvesting,is a labour intensive process and in COVID times – there is no labour so costs are higher,and the maximum output is lowered.On Top of that,a bio-plague on South East Asian Plantations,is OVERDUE.In the 1st world,Palm Oil is used to make Dog Food !

    Then there is the correlation of Palm and Crude,via the bio-diesel and other links.So if Palm oil is elevated in COVID times,all other oils will also be elevated,and by a higher factor.

    But in India – the panwari banias,import PALM OIL,to mix it with OTHER HIGHER GRADE OILS -INDIAN DNA !

    Then some Panwari Banias import Palm Oil,to mix it in Fuel Oil !

    Then some Panwari Banias import lower grade Palm (as the import duty is lower than for Prime),and then refine it in India (but in sone cases,the Oil imported is PRIME – but mislabelled)

    THERE MAY COME A DAY,WHEN INDIA WILL NOT IMPORT FUEL OIL (IN FANTASIES) – BUT PALM WILL ALWAYS HAVE TO BE IMPORTED AND SO,WILL THE OTHER EDIBLE OILS – AS INDIAN FARMERS AND NETAS AND BABOOS,ARE JUST INEPT !

    INDIA JUST CANNOT PRODUCE THAT GRADE OF OIL FRUIT (And will never be able to)- AND THE REFINING CAPACITIES ARE THE BEST O/S INDIA – SO BY ALLOWING REFINING OF EDIBLE OIL IMPORTS IN INDIA – THE GOI IS WASTING RESOURCES,AS THAT OIL CAN BE REFINED CHEAPER AND BETTER O/S INDIA.

    SO Y IS CHAIWALA ALLOWING IT ?

    SIMPLE – TO ALLOW HIS PIMPS TO MAKE A SUPERPROFIT FROM A MONOPOLY BUSINESS !

    BASICALLY ANY EDIBLE SNAKE OIL SOLD IN SHOPS IN INDIA,CAN BE REFINED IN BULK – FAR CHEAPER, IN SOUTH EAST ASIA OR BRAZIL OR ARGENTINA – BUT INDIA STILL REFINES AND VALUE ADDS,IN INDIA !

    Y

    SO THAT CHAIWALA CAN TAX THE RAW OIL IMPORT,AND THEN TAX THE PROFIT OF INDIAN REFINERS,AND ALSO GST FOR GOI – WORKING CAPITAL FINANCNG !

    And then the refining and value add In India,is another story ! It is elementary chemistry , and there is NO TRADE SECRET IN THE SAME.

    AND SO,COMES IN THE ADVERT BLITZ !

    SO THE MISERABLE INDIANS ARE PAYING THE HIGHEST IMPORT DUTY ON EDIBLE OILS,AS CHAIWALA IS BUST,AND THEN INDIANS ARE ALSO PAYING THE HIGHEST GST ON THE RETAIL OIL,AND THEN ARE PAYING TO BE CONNED,AS 30% OF THE NSR OF A BOTTLE, IS THE BRAND AND ADVERT COST – WHICH IS THE MONEY SPENT TO FOOL THE INDIAN DUDS (ABOUT THE MAGICAL SNAKE OIL)- USING AMITABH BACHHAN,WHO HAS NO TEETH TO EAT THE FOOD,MADE FROM THAT OIL !

    THIS IS HINDOOSTHAN OF CHAIWALA – HEADING TO COMPLETE DESTRUCTION !

    INDIA HAS TO BE DESTROYED FOR THE EMANCIPATION OF THE LOWER CASTES AND MINORITIES !