Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Jan 19, 2005
Bio-tech & Genetics
Government - Agricultural Policy
Agri-Biz & Commodities - Oilseeds & Edible Oil
Pawar for import of GM oilseeds
Mumbai , Jan. 18
IN a statement that could upset Indian farm lobby, Mr Sharad Pawar, Union Minister of Agriculture, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, today said there is a need to encourage import of genetically modified (GM) oilseeds and high oil content seeds.
While admitting that interests of farmers required to be protected, Mr Pawar said such imports were needed to overcome the shortage of oilseeds and edible oils.
Speaking at the World Congress of oilseed crushers here, Mr Pawar said: "There is a shortage of raw material for the domestic oilseed crushing and processing industry. The Government is seized of this problem and will work out a suitable solution in due course."
Under the current government policy, oilseeds imports are freely allowed, but subject to 30 per cent customs duty and plant quarantine clearance. However, GM oilseed imports, like any genetically modified material, require the government's prior permission.
So far, India has remained a non-GM country as far as cultivated oilseeds are concerned. However, import and cultivation of Bt cottonseed has been in vogue for last three seasons.
Mr Pawar said joint efforts by farmers and industry were needed for increasing the production of oilseeds.
Gains in the oilseed-processing sector had been hampered by inadequate infrastructure and fragmentation of processing capacities.
"The crushing units are obsolete, resulting in excessive consumption of steam, power and energy. We have to inject new technology to reduce steam, power, water and electricity consumption, check hexane losses, increase productivity and yields so as to improve the quality of products and reduce the processing costs," Mr Pawar remarked.
According to the Minister, as per the projection of National Council of Applied Economics Research, demand for edible oils would be 133 lakh tonnes in the current year and by 2014-15, it would be 259 lakh tonnes.
To meet WTO challenges, the industry should have a level playing field and it should be given a time frame for consolidation and diversification, he said. "Globalisation has thrown a major challenge to technologists including agricultural scientists to find out as to how fast one can augment the productivity of oilseeds, minimise the cost of processing and improve the quality of production so that the products are competitive globally, both cost and quality-wise," Mr Pawar said.
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