Shortage of supply propels the retail price of sesame oil to Rs. 240 a litre

The price of sesame (gingelly) has more than doubled in the recent months and the retail price of sesame oil crossed Rs. 240 a litre. But the total acreage under the crop, which requires very little water, has witnessed a sharp fall in the district.

Erode is one of the major producers of gingelly. Farmers in Kodumudi, Bhavani, Arachalur, Modakurichi, Gobichettipalayam and TN Palayam block account for 90 per cent of the sesame production in the district and many oil companies make a direct procurement from these blocks.

Farmers have covered more than 7,500 hectares under the crop in the 2011-12 financial year. But the coverage went down to a mere 1,600 hectares in the fiscal that ended on March 31.

The cultivation of the crop is being taken two times a year, during December – January and July-August. “Farmers in the district, who used cover about 6,000 hectares under the crop in the December season, had taken up the crop in less than 200 hectares. The shortage of water and power crisis are the primary reasons for the fall in the acreage,” a senior official in the agriculture department said.

“Though it is a short term crop and requires less water, many farmers did not take the risk of cultivating it following the monsoon failure,” the official added.

“We feared that we could not water the crop adequately. The yield would be poor if we failed to water the crop at least once a week,” K. Rajendran, a farmer in Kodumudi said.

Meanwhile, the price of sesame, which stood at Rs. 40 a kg, went up to Rs. 90 a kg. This led to a sharp rise in the prices of sesame oil in the market. “The price of the sesame oil stood at Rs. 150 a litre in May last year. It crossed Rs. 240 in January this year and had come down a little this month. The price now stands at Rs. 190. The shortage in the supply of sesame is the reason for the rise in the prices,” a leading sesame oil producer said.

Officials in the department, however, expressed confidence that the cultivation of gingelly will pick this year.

“The government has come up with a number of programmes to encourage the farmers to take up the cultivation of oil seeds including gingelly. So we expect a significant increase in the total area of cultivation this year,” an official said.