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Why mustard needs to put on the national agenda

IANS 

Carrots came to from sometime around the 10th century; potatoes were brought by the Portuguese in the 17th century. However, theres nothing alien about It is native to and has been around for thousands of years. tell us that was cultivated in the foothills of the Himalayas as far back as 3000 BCE -- and yet mustard, sadly, does not get the kind of support and promotion that a heritage crop of such antiquity should.

is the second-most important oilseed crop in after groundnut. It is also the country's most important winter oilseed crop. The year 2017-18 may turn out to be a good one for India because, after a long time, the country had a bumper crop of oilseeds; but this doesn't change the fact that India continues to be an On an average, India has to import over 15 million tonnes of each year to bridge the demand-supply gap, making it the world's largest importer of edible oils. These imports mainly comprise from and Indonesia, and from and

That's where comes into the picture. In recent times, the medical and scientific fraternity has been rediscovering the significant health benefits offered by A series of studies has shown that it is the best for heart health in India, given the dietary habits, lifestyles and culinary practices prevalent across the country.

Against this backdrop, there is a strong case for the government to treat mustard as a national crop and, therefore, spearhead certain landmark policy changes that could encourage farmers to focus on mustard as a cash crop, increase the area under mustard cultivation, reduce the domestic demand-supply gap by increasing the production of mustard oil, and thus, reduce and save valuable foreign exchange. Moreover, since is inherently and historically an Indian product, such policies would dovetail seamlessly with the government's "Make in India" initiative.

However, policies alone are not enough to drive the growth of mustard cultivation and on a long-term basis. For some time now, we have been recommending the establishment of a by the government. Broadly, such a board can be modelled on the lines of the in the US. The association looks after the interests of all soybean stakeholders, ranging from farmers to oil manufacturers, proactively lobbying with the and the Administration to ensure that their interests and stakes are protected, not just within the US but in other countries too.

Similarly, has established the as an intergovernmental agency to protect and promote the interests of Another example of such a board would be the Board established as a premier government agency entrusted with the responsibility of promoting all over the world. In fact, the spearheads this promotional drive and has managed to globally at a government-to-government level instead of a mere business-to-business level.

In India, mustard oil can benefit enormously from such an outreach. The Centre should establish a to promote the growth of mustard -- both as a national crop as well as an It can ensure an integrated approach to the development of the mustard industry as a whole, expanding the area under cultivation, offering remunerative prices to farmers, raising productivity and enhancing value-addition. The board could also play a pivotal role in exporting mustard, mustard oil and mustard-based products to the world.

Take another aspect of national -- and international -- importance: Climate Change. One of the most important corrective steps that any nation can take in this regard is to promote non-polluting, environment-friendly businesses. The is one such business. The industries that use in the use no chemicals, do not produce any toxic waste and do not release any pollutants. In view of this, the government should extend financial incentives, subsidies and carbon credits to the

There are also various other areas in which favourable policies and modification of existing policies could benefit the mustard sector and catalyse its development. For instance, the recent introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has certain anomalies that are adversely affecting the interests of The mustard business has a peculiarity that probably does not exist in any other business: The production of its by-product, in the form of mustard oilcake, is roughly three times the production of Managing this is, therefore, a critical component of the mustard business. Most commonly, the mustard oilcake is sold as cattle-feed or is used in the production of cattle-feed formulations and hence it should be a tax free item under GST.

To conclude, mustard is a vital Indian crop and mustard oil is an ancient, traditional Indian product. Strategically devised government policies can, therefore, go a long way in benefiting millions of farmers, workers and consumers who are the real stakeholders in the country's As India continues to grapple with the demand-supply gap in edible oils, the time is right for putting mustard on the national agenda.

(is Managing Director, Puri Oil Mills Ltd, makers of P Mark Mustard Oil. He can be contacted at vpuri@purioilmills.com)

--IANS

puri/sac

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, January 23 2018. 11:30 IST
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