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Mustard production likely to be up by 31%

NEW DELHI: Mustard Research and Promotion Consortium (MRPC) has estimated that mustard production will be up by 31% this year, boosting production from last year's low to 69 lakh tonnes at a productivity level of 1050kg/ha.

That, though, may be of little consolation to mustard farmers who now have to deal with zero duty for all cheap imported oils including Crude Soya Oil (CSO) that are flooding the market and already pressuring down oilseed support prices for them.

Mustard and sunflower among edible oilseeds are ready to be harvested currently and oilseed farmers are reportedly unwilling to sell to trade at the existing Minimum Support Price (MSP or floor price). The higher output this year could only add to their woes and restrict their options. In comparision, mustard acreage last year went down by 20% and production went down by 10 per cent.

Already, there's a 30% drop in mustard price for the fresh crop compared to last year. Unless the government puts in enabling policies that curb and contain cheap edible oil import floods in the markets, domestic oilseed farmers cannot be assured a good return and will switch to other crops. That will not only leave us, in the longer term, at
the complete mercy of high priced imports but also irreversibly weaken our own edible oil sector, the MRPC maintained in a statement.

Haryana and Rajasthan have, in particular, contributed to the increase in output. According to H B Singh, executive president of the MRPC, the increase in mustard production is on account of a variety of key factors such as adoption of high yielding varieties and a conducive climate (no frost or hailstones in January or February). Had the weather been warmer in these two months, however, output could have gone up to 70-71 lakh tonnes, the Consortium said.

Mustard oil accounts for almost 40% of the total edible oil output in the country and its low input prices compared to other edible oilseeds has ensured a remarkable increase in coverge of mustard and rapeseed over the last several years. In 1950, the area covered accounted for only around 20 lakh ha, coverage has gone up to 65 lakh ha curerntly.

Simultaneously, productivity or yield per hectare has also gone up significantly from only 368kg/ha to 1100 kg/ha currently. MRPC officials pointed out that the gradual but steady increase in coverage and yield had been influenced to a good extent by the enabling policies of the government, which relied on mustard/rapeseed output to make up for lower output in other oilseeds.

Mustard/rapeseed is produced all over northern India and substantial acreage is under it in Rajasthan (29 lakh tonnes), Haryana, MP and Gujarat (20 lakh tonnes together), UP (8.8 lakh tonnes) and Punjab.

Agriscientists have estimated that with the adoption of newer high yielding mustard varieties and optimum conducive climate, mustard production in the country could be doubled from the current levels.