Reiterating its demand for quantitative restrictions on edible oil imports, trade body, Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA) highlighted that without restrictions, unnecessary import of edible oils will continue unbridled and import lobby was holding up the growth of domestic oilseed sector.

The Solvent Extractors Association of India, the apex trade body for the sector, had earlier opposed SOPA’s bid to call for quantitative restrictions terming it to be counter-productive and a measure to breed corruption.

In a latest letter to the Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, dated August 10, SOPA alleged import lobby to influence the decision making to keep India “dependent on imports forever in the narrow interest of their own businesses.”

“There is nothing counter-productive about restricting imports in the interest of the farmers and for moving towards self-sufficiency which is only possibly by increasing local oilseed production,” Davish Jain, Chairman, SOPA wrote in the letter.

Unnecessary imports

He also stated that in the past 25 years, edible oils imports have jumped 15 times from 11.64 lakh tonnes in 1995-96 to 150 lakh tonnes in 2019-20. During the same period, oilseed production has gained only marginally and production of oilseed has increased from 221 lakh tonnes to 335 lakh tonnes. This stagnation is directly attributable to burgeoning imports. India has become the single largest importer of edible oils in the world, he noted.

“The restriction is also necessary because raising of import duties has only been able to check the incremental imports. The reduction can only be made by applying quantitative restrictions and capping seasonal unwarranted imports,” he said, requesting the Minister to restrict imports of all edible oils including palm oil, soybean and sunflower oil during peak periods of domestic availability in India. He sought a hike in import duty on crude soybean oil to 45 per cent and crude sunflower oil to 50 per cent.

“With the Prime Minister’s Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan in place, nobody should be allowed to permanently hold up the growth of domestic oilseed economy,” Jain stated.

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