The SOMA president said that of the estimated 25 million tonnes consumption of edible oils in the country, around 15 million tonnes were met through imports. (Representational Image)
Days after the Centre announced a hike in minimum support prices (MSPs) for most agricultural commodities, Saurashtra Oil Mill Association (SOMA) demanded that imports of pulses and edible oil be restricted to keep domestic production competitive and ensure that farmers get the benefit of higher MSPs.
In a letter written last week to Union Agriculture Minister Radhamohan Singh, SOMA president Sameer Shah said: “We draw our attention towards the fact that many agri (sic) products are getting sold well below the MSP. We feel that with dynamic personality like you at the helm of the affairs, this problem will be sorted soon by curtailing the import of these commodities and by promoting the usage of domestically produced items.”
Shah pointed out that groundnut, soyabean, mustard, tur, among others, fetched lower prices than MSP when farmers sold them in Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMCs). “Pulses in general are sold below MSP throughout the season even as sizeable quantity of the commodity was imported. Similar is the case with oilseeds. Farmers sold them below MSP even as our imports constitute more than half of edible oil demand in the country,” Shah told The Indian Express.
The SOMA president said that of the estimated 25 million tonnes consumption of edible oils in the country, around 15 million tonnes were met through imports. “Given the huge gap between consumption and local supply, imports are the only solution in the short term. But the government will have to take steps to ensure that domestic oil industry remains competitive against imports in the long run,” he said.
In another letter to Union Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday, the SOMA demanded that import of palm stearin, a byproduct generated in the process of refining palm oil, also be restricted as “it was putting stress on domestic oil refining industry”.
“To promote domestic industry, the government has very rightly kept the difference of 10 per cent on import duty structure of refined and unrefined edible oil. Because of this, import of refined oil attracts 10 per cent more import duty than the import of unrefined oils. Due to this, refining activities go on smoothly for oil like soyabean, sunflower and canola. But for refining pamolien oils, a major issue has developed in recent times. During refining of palmolien oils, a very significant quantity, about 30 per cent, is lost as a byproduct. This byproduct, known as palm stearin, is used mainly for manufacturing of soaps and detergents. This commodity, if imported from other countries, does not attract any import duty. So, it is being imported in huge quantity. Because of huge import, the stearin produced domestically does not get proper rates and hence its refining in our country is not found viable recently,” said the letter.
Shah said that duty-free import of palm stearin from Malaysia is hurting the domestic refining industry and therefore some restrictions were required. “The phenomenon has become more pronounced over the last four months. Therefore, we demand that either some import duty should be imposed on imports of palm stearin or the difference in duty between import of refined and unrefined palm oil should be widened to 20 per cent,” SOMA president Shah said.