Edible oil scenario is likely to worsen with the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) withdrawing all Dhara brand oils from the Delhi market pending Agmark approval.
With mustard oil already being off the shelves, the consumers have been left with little choice but to go in for premium oils sold in the market at prices ranging from Rs 65 to Rs 85 per litre (910 gm). The demand for cooking oil is presently at its peak due to the on-going festival season.
Though the NDDB has not completely withdrawn from the market in other northern states, the overall cooking media availability position is reported to be precarious as the sale of mustard oil continues to be banned and other oils are in short supply.
According to oil industry sources, mustard oil alone accounted for a market share of nearly 4,000 tonne out of the capitals' total monthly edible oil requirement of about 52,000 tonne. This was the cheapest oil available at around Rs 40-45 a litre before its sale was barred after the outbreak of Dropsy epidemic due to the consumption of adulterated mustard oil.
Some of the well-known mustard oil brands, let alone the loose oil, were found to be adulterated with toxic argemon mexicana oil which was believed to cause the fatal dropsy disease.
In the case of the Dhara brand, though only some samples of unrefined mustard oil were found to contain argemon oil, the NDDB had stopped the sale of even the refined mustard oil as a precautionary measure.
Oil industry sources maintain that the supply position is unlikely to normalise soon as the government has barred the sale of loose oils and the bulk of Delhi's oil mills do not possess packaging facilities. Even those in a position to acquire packaging capacity would find the going tough in view of the mandatory testing of purity of the oils.
There is confusion among the oil trade and industry about the procedure for the approval of oil for sale.
These circles are not yet clear whether the quality approval granted to a small oil sample would make the entire batch of oil, which might consist of 500 or more tonne, eligible for sale.
The concern is, in fact, more about the rejection of a sample.
The trade circles fear that if the rejection of a sample makes the entire lot ineligible for sale, their loss would run into crores of rupees. This fear is preventing them from offering the available stocks for sale, compounding the availability crunch.
The ban on mustard oil has also led to uncertainty about the cultivation of this crop. The sowing of mustard usually starts around this time in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. This year the farmers are still waiting for firm signals from the government before going ahead with mustard planting.