Address by Shri Meenesh Shah, Chairman, NDDB on Atmanirbharata through Sahakarita at International Conference on Vegetable Oils 2023 - 17 January 2023

International Conference on Vegetable Oils 2023

‘Research, Trade, Value Chain and Policy’

17 January, 2023 - Hyderabad


Inaugural session – Address by Shri Meenesh Shah, Chairman, NDDB

‘Atmanirbharata through Sahakarita’ – NDDB’s Strategy for Self-sufficiency in Edible Oils

I am happy to be here with you in this inaugural function of the International Conference on Vegetable Oils 2023. Last year, we saw unexpected spikes in the price of vegetable oils, largely on account of the high international prices, owing to the war in Ukraine. It was a rude awakening for all of us, reminding us as to how vulnerable our domestic edible oil market is, to events happening around the world.

During the past few decades, India has seen a steady increase in the consumption of food products. This has been driven by sustained economic growth leading to higher disposable incomes in the hands of the common man. Sustained efforts by the Government and private enterprise ensured that the production of food in the country kept pace with economic growth and rising demand. This was achieved by improvements in crop productivity as well as increased areas brought under cultivation. Inadequate domestic production of edible oil continues to be cause of concern. India continues to import more than 55 % of its requirement of about 25 million tonnes of edible oil at a cost of more than Rupees one lakh crore.

The National Dairy Development Board, NDDB was set up in 1964 with the objective of replicating ‘Anand’ pattern cooperatives in the dairy sector. NDDB was born out of an abiding faith its founders had in cooperatives – a belief that farmers are benefitted most by institutions owned and managed by themselves. From 1971 to 1996, NDDB implemented Operation Flood, which helped set up and nurture dairy cooperatives across the country. By providing remunerative prices to farmers throughout the year, dairy cooperatives ensured that farmers invested in dairy animals and milk production increased rapidly, keeping pace with growing demand. By 1998, India became the largest producer of milk, a position it continues to hold for nearly a quarter of a century.

In the eighties and nineties, NDDB was actively involved in replicating its success in cooperative dairying in the edible oil sector. Edible oil cooperatives were organized in several states on the lines of dairy cooperatives. NDDB also worked with the Government of India to stabilize the domestic price of edible oils through a ‘Market Intervention Operation’. NDDB also introduced for the first time in the country, retail edible oil packs in tamperproof cartons under the brand name ‘Dhara’. All these initiatives supplemented the Government of India’s Technology Mission on Oilseeds and helped the country achieve near self-sufficiency for a brief period in the early nineties. The gains made in the eighties and nineties could not be sustained and the country’s dependence on imported edible oil continued to increase.

Last year, the war in Ukraine suddenly brought to focus our excessive dependence on imports of edible oil, particularly sunflower oil. Crises like these have only strengthened our resolve to work towards ‘Atmanirbharata’ or self-sufficiency in production of oilseeds. Specific schemes like the National Food Security Mission (Oilseeds and Oil Palm) are targeting rapid increase in the production of oilseeds. During the last few months, NDDB has also been working with the Government of India to increase the area under cultivation as well as productivity of sunflower crop. NDDB will work on a four-pronged strategy to help the Government of India in its objective of rapidly reducing import dependence of edible oil.

The first area of focus for NDDB would be to increase the availability of good quality seeds. NDDB’s expertise in fodder seed production through dairy cooperatives would be leveraged to produce high quality seeds for oilseed crops. To begin with, NDDB, along with the Karnataka Oil Federation (KOF)  signed MOUs with IIOR and the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore (UAS-B) for the production of high quality sunflower hybrid seeds in Karnataka. In its very first year of production, NDDB intents to supply enough sunflower seeds, about 5000 quintals of certified seeds, for sowing in one lakh hectares. Based on its experience in Karnataka, NDDB will formulate strategies to cover more oilseed crops with high yielding hybrid seeds and will enter new geographies and states.

Recognizing the importance of high yielding seeds, last week, the Union Cabinet  approved a proposal to set up a multi-state cooperative for the development, production and distribution of seeds. This multi-state cooperative with an initial authorized share-capital of Rs.500 crore will have seed producing cooperatives across the country as its members. NDDB is one of the five promoter members of this cooperative and apart from fodder seeds, its major area of focus would be seeds for edible oil crops.

The yield of oilseeds crops in India is very low compared to major oilseed producing countries in the world. Rapid adoption of improved cultivation practices is required to supplement the benefits that would be brought in by high yielding seeds. Therefore, the second area of  focus for NDDB will be to leverage its expertise in training and extension for farmers to improve cultivation practices. Training facilities of NDDB as well as that of oilseeds and milk cooperatives can be used to propagate improved cultivation practices. Substantial reduction in yield gap will be targeted as part of large training and extension programs.

The dairy cooperative network in India comprises of about 2 lakh village level primary societies organized into more than 200 district level milk unions and over 25 state level federations. Oilseeds cooperatives set up with NDDB’s assistance in the eighties and nineties continue to operate in the 3 states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The third area of focus for NDDB will be supporting oilseeds farmers to form cooperatives or FPOs. Efforts will also be made to strengthen the functional oilseeds cooperatives and revive the ones which are defunct. NDDB will provide technical and financial assistance in this area. Later today, we are meeting the Chairmen and Managing Directors of oilseeds cooperatives from these states.

The fourth area of focus for NDDB would be to provide forward linkages for the oilseeds cooperatives. The ‘Dhara’ brand of edible oil launched in the late eighties continues to inspire confidence among millions of customers. Today, NDDB’s wholly owned subsidiary company, Mother Dairy Fruit and Vegetable Limited sells more than 2 lakh tons of different types edible every year under the ‘Dhara’ brand. NDDB will strive to rapidly increase volumes of its ‘Dhara’ brand of edible oils with a view to establishing a dominant share in the retail market.

By focussing on these four areas, NDDB expects to support the Government of India’s ambitious target of ‘Atmanirbharata’ in edible oils through a strategy of  ‘Sahakarita’ . I am sure that our officers attending this conference would return with valuable insights that would help us in this mission.

Thank you.