'Ban on blending to boost mustard seeds production, cut edible oil imports'

India's mustard seeds production is likely to rise while import of edible oil may reduce on account of the government's decision to ban blending of mustard oil with any other cooking oil with effect from October 1, according to leading industry players.

Adani Wilmar, which sells cooking oil under Fortune brand, and Mother Dairy that markets edible oils under Dhara brand, hailed the decision, saying it will benefit both farmers and consumers.

"This is a good decision. Consumers will get pure mustard oil now. Mustard oil is being blended with rice bran, soyabean and palm oil," Adani Wilmar Deputy CEO Angshu Mallick told PTI.

Now, an additional 5 lakh tonnes of mustard oil will be required to replace the other oils that were used for blending purpose, he said.

"To produce 5 lakh tonnes of mustard oil, we will require 12-15 lakh tonnes of extra mustard seeds," Mallick said.

The decision will encourage farmers of Rajasthan and other states to increase area of coverage under mustard seeds, he said, adding that this would enhance farmers' income.

The country's production of mustard seeds, which is grown in Rabi (winter season), stood at 91.16 lakh tonnes in 2019-20 crop year (July-June). India's overall vegetable oil imports could decline to around 134-135 lakh tonne in the 2019-20 oil year (November-October) from 149.1 lakh tonne in the previous year on lower demand because of COVID-19 pandemic.

Mallick suggested that the food regulator will have to remain vigilant for ensuring compliance of this decision and stop blending illegally.

A Mother Dairy spokesperson said: "This is certainly a positive development and in the best interest of consumers, farmers as well as ethical mustard oil players as consumers across large mustard oil markets such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh were misled with blended oil being sold in the name of pure mustard oil."

Mother Dairy has always advocated for pure mustard oil, offering the right taste and aroma. By blending mustard oil, it disturbs the taste and properties of the oil, the spokesperson said.

"In addition, with mustard being an indigenous crop, this restriction will also help the farmers in getting remunerative prices," the spokesperson said.

Recently, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) wrote a letter to the commissioner of food safety of all states and Union Territories, directing that "blending of mustard oil with any other edible oil in India has been prohibited with effect from October 1, 2020".

The edible oil manufacturers or processors, who have the license for production of blended edible vegetable oil with mustard oil, have been directed to sell their existing stocks of mustard oil/mustard seeds or any other edible oil as unblended cooking oils, the letter said.

All such licensees have been asked to modify their FSSAI licenses. As per the FSSAI regulations, blending of two edible oils is permitted, provided the proportion by weight of any edible vegetable oil used in the blending process is not less than 20 per cent.

However, FSSAI said, "Now the government of India after due deliberations has directed FSSAI to prohibit blending in mustard oil and to facilitate manufacture and sale of pure mustard oil for domestic consumption in public interest".

The FSSAI said a draft regulation in this regard has been prepared but it will take some time to finalise the rules after taking stakeholders comment.

"Meanwhile, to implement the said direction of government of India, it has been decided to operationalise these regulations with effect from October 1, 2020. No manufacturing of blended edible vegetable oil with mustard oil as an ingredient shall be allowed with effect from this date," the FSSAI said.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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