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Despite the government’s efforts to reduce India’s dependence on imported edible oil by increasing local oilseed production, soybean output is likely to decline by 17 per cent this kharif harvesting season, a survey said. Soybean is the country’s top oilseed. The decline is attributed to lower sowing area and reports of crop damage following a long dry spell in the peak planting season.
A survey conducted by the Indore-based apex industry body, The Soybean Processors Association (SOPA), showed India’s total sowing area under soybean crop this kharif season by mid-August is at 10.2 million hectares (ha), compared with 10.9 million by mid-August 2016. Sowing of soybean crop is almost complete by mid-August, with little chance of further addition of kharif acreage.
Apart from that, there was a long dry spell this monsoon season. Experts believe the standing crop got damaged due to deficiency of moisture in the peak germination period.
"This translates into a sharp decline in soybean output this season. The decline in acreage coupled with the possible crop damage may reduce India's soybean output this year,” said D N Pathak, executive director, SOPA.
While Pathak is hopeful of a recovery in yield following the restoration of rainfall in the last two weeks, the decline in acreage would certainly lower India’s soybean output, he said. The survey does not specify the quantum of decline in the output; officials who participated in this activity said this season might end with 9.5 million tonnes of soybean output, compared with 11.4 million tonnes last year.
The survey was conducted through extensive field visits to 42 major soybean growing-districts of three states Madhya Pradesh (23), Maharashtra (13) and Rajasthan (6), to assess the shift in area, crop condition, expected productivity, etc.
“Extended period of dry spell caused attack of some pests and insects in some areas. Attack of white grub larva was seen in some districts of Madhya Pradesh. Normally, this does not happen in black cotton soil but the dry spell caused this which led to total damage to the standing crop in a small area. No threat to crop by weeds was seen," said SOPA President Davish Jain.
Meanwhile, soybean prices have moved up by two per cent in the past few days amid expectations of lower output to trade currently at around Rs 3,100 a quintal.
The major reason for a sharp decline in acreage this year is soybean price which remained lower than the minimum support price (MSP) during most of sowing period. To encourage farmers to bring in more area under soybean acreage, the government raised import duty on crude and refined edible oils recently. India imports around 55 per cent of its annual consumption of around 24 million tonnes. Farmers and stockists are holding around 2.5 million tonnes of carry over soybean stocks from last year due to negative crushing parity.