Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Junagadh Jamnagar Saurashtra News Samachar Gujarat India

Groundnut yield plummets, hits 800 oil mills.

India's groundnut bowl is shrinking, both in terms of the area under cultivation and the yield.

On stake is the survival of more than 800 oil mills in the Saurashtra Kutch region, which accounts for 35 per cent of the country’s total production of five million tonnes of groundnut oilseed.

The slide began a couple of years ago, and this season, the plummet was steep and unchecked. The scanty rainfall has accounted for an all-time low yield this season.

The Saurashtra Oil Millers Association (SOMA) estimate the fall at over 45 per cent, which is now likely to hasten the en masse closure of mills, with groundnut oil prices expected to touch Rs 1,500 per 15 kg by Diwali.

“Owing to the shortage of kernels, groundnut is likely to touch Rs 1,500 by Diwali,” said SOMA president Ukabhai Patel. At present, groundnut oil costs Rs 1,100 per 15 kg. SOMA secretary Samir Shah said, “More than three out of four of the 800 mills will remain shut this season.”

With only 25 per cent of mills likely to reopen the coming season, SOMA wants the government to lift the ban on groundnut exports in a bid to encourage the cultivators.

Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are the major producers of groundnut oil in the country. The coastal belt of Saurashtra tops this list. Besides, groundnut is also grown at Vadodara, Bharuch and Surat districts.

At its Annual General Meeting on Sunday, SOMA estimated groundnut yield this season to be between 9.5 to 10 lakh tones, 45 per cent less than the 17 lakh tones yield in the previous year.

The area under groundnut cultivation in Saurashtra-Kutch has also gone down from 26 lakh hectares in 2002 to 19 lakh hectares, reducing production from 26 to 19 lakh tonnes.

According to the government agriculture department figures, the area under groundnut cultivation stood at 17 lakh hectares this season.

This year, barring Jamnagar and Junagadh districts, the yield in the other six districts including Rajkot, Amreli, Surendranagar, Bhavnagar, Porbandar and Kutch is not even 40,000 tonnes on an average. For both Junagadh and Jamnagar, which recorded more than average rainfall, the yield is expected to be around three lakh tonnes.

Incidentally, the politically-powerful SOMA, which once decided the composition and course of the state governments, has now been reduced to pleading with the government to increase the import duties on other oils, for their sheer survival.

Soma had once rocked the Chimanbhai Patel Government, forcing the then minister Ashok Bhatt to resign when the industry was not happy. But, with the License Raj no longer in existence, the industry has lost its clout. The plummeting yield has made matters only worse for it.

“We are going to make a representation to the Centre to allow exports of groundnut and to impose import duty on other edible oils that have flooded the market,” said Ukabhai Patel.

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