The first consignment of 50,000 tonnes of genetically modified (GM) soyameal from Bangladesh has arrived in India via the land port of Petrapole in West Bengal. This is the first time since independence that India has authorized the import of genetically modified raw materials, which will be used in the manufacture of poultry feed.
Soyameal is the protein-rich solid remaining after the oil has been extracted from the seed. It forms a protein component of poultry nutrition.
An acute shortage and the resulting escalating soyameal prices prompted the poultry industry to request that the item be imported. The central government had cleared the import without referring the matter to the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee. Instead, the Department of Environment, Forests and Climate Change argued that because it was a non-living entity, it could be imported.
The industry has up to October 31 to import 12 lakh tons of soyameal. Industry insiders said the landed cost of soyameal is around Rs 60/kg, which is much cheaper than the domestic product, which is sold at retail at Rs 85/kg.
After the Centre’s green signal for imports, poultry majors reached agreements of approximately 2.5 lakh tonnes of soyameal imports. Most imports are from Vietnam and are expected to cross the Seaway by September 15.
While the industry has until October 31 to import its quota of soyameal, many estimate that no more than 4 lakh tonnes would be imported by then. This is because it takes 15 to 20 days for imports to arrive via the sea route. Most imports would come from Vietnam, as larger shipments from Brazil, Argentina or the United States would take at least 45 days to arrive by sea.
After October, the domestic produce will also arrive in local markets, which would lead to softening of prices.
Meanwhile, farmers in Maharashtra reported satisfactory harvest conditions this year, with better yields per acre. Instead of 6-7 quintals per acre, many farmers expect an average yield of around 10-12 quintals per acre.
India reported seeding over 121 lakh hectares compared to last year’s 119 lakh hectares. Maharashtra alone claimed to have sown more than 45 lakh hectares, the highest level ever in the state.