India's soybean area seen falling as farmers switch to pulses
By Rajendra Jadhav
MUMBAI May 24 (Reuters) - Indian farmers are set to reduce the area given over to soybeans by up to 10 percent this year in response to falling prices, pushing up likely imports of edible oils such as palm oil and soyoil.
Soybean is the main summer-sown oilseed crop for the world's biggest importer of edible oil, but prices have dropped 10 percent in the past two years, while the prices of pulses such as red gram have nearly tripled over the same period.
Lower soybean output will force the country to increase imports of edible oils, supporting their prices. It could also limit India's soymeal exports, given prices for its GMO-free produce are already above international prices.
The further price rise due to lower supply could even make imports of soymeal viable for local consumers.
"In the last two-three years soybeans have given lower returns than competing crops like pulses," said K N Rahiman, chief research officer at Ruchi Soya, the country's biggest edible oil refiner.
"This year, since pulses prices are ruling near record high levels, farmers will be inclined to shift towards pulses. We could see 5 to 10 percent reduction in soybean area."
Farmers planted 11.63 million hectares with soybean in 2015/16. A 10 percent reduction would cut acreage to around 10.5 million hectares in the 2016/17 marketing year starting July.
Most Indian farmers begin cultivating soybean and pulses, which are rain-fed crops, in June after the arrival of the monsoon rains, and they are sown mainly in the states of Madhya Pradesh in central India, Maharashtra in the west, Rajasthan in the north-west, and Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in the south. Continuación...