With a bumper crop of soybean expected to hit the markets later this year, efforts are being made to tap into newer export markets for the oilseed and its derivatives. The SOPA — Soybean Processors Association of India — has stepped up its efforts to tap into the 1,000 lakh tonne-strong market in China and a delegation from the association will travel to the country for talks soon.
Last year, after cotton was infested by pink bollworm, sowing of soybean has seen a substantial increase in Maharashtra this year. As of July 21, the state has reported 35.26 lakh hectares of sowing, as against the 34.06 lakh hectares reported last year. At the national level, 93.87 lakh hectares of farm land has seen sowing. Last year, the figure was a meagre 84.64 lakh hectares. For this Kharif season, the central government has raised the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of the oilseed to Rs 3,399 per quintal, from the Rs 3,050 a quintal last year.
The expectation of a bumper crop comes in the backdrop of the Sino-US tariff war, with China clamping down on US imports. China is the largest importer of US soybean, with its average yearly import slated to be as high as 1,000 lakh tonnes. But the present situation has made imports to China non-viable for the US with Chinese players looking elsewhere to meet the domestic requirement of soybean meal- the protein-rich mass left after oil is extracted from the beans, which forms the basic raw material for manufacturing feed for the poultry industry.
The October contracts on the National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange of India (NCDEX) platform are trading at Rs 3,329 a quintal – below the MSP – in the wholesale markets post-harvest. Sources said if exports fail to pick up, soybean farmers in India might face a situation similar to tur and chana growers, who, last year had to sell their produce at throwaway prices.
India exports 10-15 lakh tonne of soy meal annually to countries like Japan and Europe. This year, the export is likely to increase to 30-35 lakh tonne, sources said.
D N Pathak, the executive director of the SOPA, said they are making efforts to open the Chinese market for Indian producers. The market, Pathak said, was closed to India due to quarantine concerns raised by the Chinese authorities in the past few years. “We are aiming to capture at least 2-3 per cent of the market and export 30-35 lakh tonnes of the meal there,” he said.
A delegation of SOPA will visit China soon to discuss ways to ensure the market is made available to Indian players. Pathak added that the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh is also likely to lead a delegation to China to discuss the matter.