The country's oilseed output this year has failed to keep pace with rising consumer demand for cooking oil.
The latest survey by the apex industry body, the Soybean Processors' Association (SOPA), estimates India's soybean output at 8.35 million tonnes for the harvesting season 2017-18, about 24 per cent lower than 10.9 million tonnes reported in the previous year. Sown with the onset of the monsoon, soybean is a kharif crop that contributes to nearly a third of India's overall oilseeds' output and sets the trend for other seeds such as groundnut and sesame in the summer sowing season, and rapeseed and mustard in winter.
SOPA earlier had estimated India's soybean output at 9.15 million tonnes in its first survey in October. In contrast, the Union Ministry of Agriculture has pegged India's total soybean output at 12.22 million tonnes in its first advanced estimate for the season 2017-18, down from 13.79 million tonnes in its fourth advanced estimate for 2016-17.
"After an extensive survey in the major soybean growing districts in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan -- India's three major growing states contributing around 90 per cent of the oilseed -- and interaction with farmers, traders, and processing plants, and after considering the arrivals, crushing, direct use and exports, we have revised the kharif 2017 soybean crop to 8.35 million tonnes from 9.15 million tonnes forecast in October 2017.
During the last season, India's soybean output was reported at 10.9 million tonnes," said D N Pathak, Executive Director, SOPA.
Both private and government agencies involved in the business of soybean, soya oil and oilmeals have forecast India's soybean output to remain lower this year due to flood-induced crop damage in major growing states, followed by blight disease in the plants. Industry estimates India's total acreage is down by 5 per cent this year.
Dinesh Shahra, managing director, Ruchi Soya Industries, had forecast India's total soybean output at less than 9 million tonnes for 2017-18 crop year.
SOPA estimated total arrival of soybean into mandis at 5.3 million tonnes of which crushing mills have processed 3.8 million tonnes. Soybean stock with farmers, traders and plants stands currently at 4.53 million tonnes.
Reduced soybean production is likely to jack up India's annual edible oil import bill which is currently about Rs 650 billion for over 15 million tonnes of cooking oil. India's edible oil import bill has risen sharply with proportionate increase in oil demand.
SOPA also estimates India's soybean meal exports at 1.25 million tonnes for financial year 2017-18 compared to 2 million tonnes reported for the previous year.