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As Ukraine war puts stress on sunflower oil export pipeline, experts see a big opportunity for Punjab

India continues to import nearly 2.5 million tonnes sunflower oil which included around 70% from from Ukraine, 20% from Russia and remaining from other countries including Argentina.

By: Express News Service Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
March 1, 2022 3:05:46 am
cooking oil, cooking oil prices, crude oil prices, global crude oil prices, Oil prices, Russia Ukraine, Russia Ukraine Crisis, Russia-Ukraine tension, Ukraine, Ukraine Crisis, India-Ukraine-Russia, NATO, United States, Vladimir Putin, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsSunflower crop was introduced in Punjab in the early 1990s, and it had touched 1.03 lakh hectares area under it in 1995-96 with total production of 1.61 lakh tonnes sunflower seed at an average yield of 1,566 kg per hectare. (File)

With the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, the import of sunflower oil to India is also likely to take a hit. India imports around 70% of its total import of sunflower edible oil from Ukraine and around 20% from Russia. Meanwhile, India’s own sunflower production has been stagnant for the past few years at around 60,000 tonnes (2019-20), which is grown on around 2.40 lakh hectares.

Two decades back, Punjab alone produced this much sunflower oil. Pushing forward to revive that production could cut dependence on imports and help in crop diversification, experts said.

Sunflower crop was introduced in Punjab in the early 1990s, and it had touched 1.03 lakh hectares area under it in 1995-96 with total production of 1.61 lakh tonnes sunflower seed at an average yield of 1,566 kg per hectare. In that very year, India’s average sunflower seed production was 593 kg per hectare which was significantly less than the Punjab’s yield. Around one-third oil is extracted from the sunflower seeds which means Punjab used to produce nearly 54,000 tonnes sunflower oil over two decades back. Because of its high yield, Punjab can grow more in less area.

But over the years, the area under the crop is down to 4,400 hectares and the production has slid from 1.61 lakh tonnes to 9,700 tonnes (2018-19). However, the yield has increased from 1,566 kg to 1933 kg per hectare (2018-19).

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In the face of these statistics, India continues to import nearly 2.5 million tonnes sunflower oil which included around 70% from from Ukraine, 20% from Russia and remaining from other countries including Argentina.

According to 2019-20 data, India’s total edible oil consumption was 25 million tonnes (250 lakh tonnes) oil, the domestic availability was 10.53 million tonnes and remaining 14.46 million tonnes was import which included 2.5 million tonnes import of sunflower oil and it was 17% of the total import of all the edible oils.

According to the Union Commerce Ministry, India imported 2.5 million tonnes sunflower oil in 2019-20 and 2.2 million tonnes in 2020-21 out of which it imported 1.93 million tonnes and 1.74 million tonnes came from Ukraine in 2019-20 and 2020-21, respectively. Similarly, India imported 0.38 million and 0.28 million tonnes from Russian in these two years.

Varinder Sardana, principal agronomist and in-charge, oilseeds section, department of plant breeding and genetics, Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), said that sunflower crop is one of the most suitable crops in the state like Punjab specially in the spring season and a huge area can be brought here under it because it is just a 100 days crop and can be grown in the state throughout the year.

It can even give a major push to the diversification in the state along with meeting the sunflower oil need of the country as it consumes less water than any other alternate crop to paddy.

He further said that Punjab’s average yield per hectare is more than the double of the national average yield of the sunflower.

“Punjab has close to two tonnes (2,000 kg) yield per hectare against the national average of around 884 kg per hectare (2019-20),” he pointed out.

Even if Punjab’s 10% agricultural land (nearly 4 lakh hectares) is diverted under this crop in the beginning of the year then it can meet 1/3rd sunflower oil need of the country which would curtail huge imports of this oil and the farmers here can benefit when the government will put the same money, which it spends on import, to purchase this crop on MSP, said a senior officer in the Punjab Agriculture department, adding that Punjab needs to curtail at least 10 lakh hectares from under water guzzling-paddy crop and both Punjab and the Union governments can push farmers to adopt sunflower crop.

“A policy can be made that at least 10% area must remain under it all the time though it can be grown in a field as an alternate crop in a filed so as to maintain the fertility of the soil as growing one crop continuously in a filed is not a good agriculture practice,” said another Agriculture officer. “If green revolution was possible then area enhancement under sunflower is also possible,” he added.

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