PM Modi on high import of edible oil: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday expressed concern over India's high import bill for edible oil, fertilisers and crude oil, and said there is a need to work in a mission mode to make the country self-reliant and reduce import dependence.
With international energy prices soaring after the war in Ukraine, India will spend a record Rs 2.5 lakh crore to subsidise fertilizer for farmers. Another USD 120 billion is spent on importing crude oil and the two together are the biggest drain on exchequer.
Addressing PM Kisan Samman Sammelan 2022 event here, Prime Minister released the 12th installment of the cash support that the government had launched ahead of the 2019 general elections, and launched a scheme to brand all subsidised fertiliser under one brand 'Bharat' to eliminate product differentiation and confusion multiple brands cause in the minds of farmers.
He also inaugurated 600 Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samruddhi Kendras (PM-KSK) which will act as a one-stop-shop providing multiple services to farmers. Around 3.3 lakh retail fertiliser shops will be converted into PM-KSK.
"We have another major challenge before us, which I want to discuss with our farmers and innovators. Why I am stressing on self-reliance and what role agriculutre and farmers can play in this, one needs to understand and work on a mission mode," Modi said.
Out of total imports, maximum is spent on edible oils, fertilisers and crude oil. When there is a global problem, it has its bearing on the domestic market. First, the country had to face the challenge of pandemic and then the war in exporting countries from where India buys many commodities, he said.
"To reduce import bill and make the country self-reliant, we together have to take a pledge. ...We need to take a pledge to become free from import dependency on food and agriculture related items. We together have to move in this direction," Modi said.
The country can reduce import of edible oils by boosting domestic production, he said, while exhorting that when it was done in pulses it can be easily replicated in oilseeds, he said.
In case of crude oil, the prime minister said efforts are being made to boost the production of ethanol and biofuel.
Citing example of fertiliser, Modi said global prices of urea, Di-Ammonium Phosphate are rising day and night and is having impact on the country's economy. To make fertilisers available at cheaper rates, the government buys urea at the rate of Rs 75-80 per kg from the global market, but sells to farmers at Rs 5-6 per kg.
The government will spend Rs 2.5 lakh crore to ensure affordable fertiliser to farmers this year too, he said, adding that this has an impact on the government exchequer and create problems in implementing many works. Modi also urged upon agri startups, which have increased to 3,000 now from 100-odd in 2014, to work towards reducing import of commodities like edible oil and fertilisers.
In his speech, the prime minister listed out new initiatives taken by the government in the last eight years to boost farmers' income and bring reforms in the agriculture sector. Pointing out the challenges of climate change, the prime minister said farmers face all sorts of problems in daily life and there is a need to build a new system to boost production by adopting scientific methods and technologies with open heart.
As a result, the government has issued 22 crore soil health cards to farmers that will help them ascertain the quality of soil and use fertilisers accordingly. More than 1,700 new climate-resistant seed varieties have been introduced and 70 lakh hectares have been brought under micro irrigation in the last eight years.
Several states are also framing schemes to encourage natural farming. The Oil-Palm Mission with an aim to make India self-reliant in edible oil is also being implemented. Before addressing the event, the prime minister released the 12th installment of financial benefit worth Rs 16,000 crore to eligible farmers under the flagship PM-KISAN scheme and said it will help farmer communities during the Diwali festival and ongoing rabi season.
With this, around Rs 2.16 lakh crore have been transferred to about 11 crore farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme under which the government provides Rs 6,000 per beneficiary in a year in three equal installments.
He also launched single brand 'Bharat' for subsidised urea as part of the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Urvarak Pariyojana - One Nation One Fertiliser (ONOF).
Under the ONOF, it is mandatory for companies to market subsidised fertiliser under single brand 'Bharat'. Modi said there is a need to work on a mission mode to reduce the import of at least food and agricultural items.
Last fiscal, India's vegetable oil imports shot up by 70.72 per cent on annual basis to USD 18.93 billion. In 2021-22, India imported petroleum and crude & products valued at USD 160.68 billion, up nearly 94 per cent.