As a result, prices of edible oil are expected to spurt this year
Changing preferences among the farming community, lucrative prices of pulses, particularly for Red Gram last year, and the early rain during the kharif season last year has resulted in the steep fall in oilseed cultivation in Karnataka. The State was once the leading oilseeds producing State in the country.
Official sources told The Hindu in Gulbarga that the area under oilseed cultivation had dropped drastically this year. Traditional oilseed-growing farmers had shifted to pulses in the hope of reaping rich rewards.
Although the normal coverage under oilseeds in the State was around 6.5 lakh hectares each year, the Government had fixed the target under oilseed cultivation at 5.27 lakh hectares due to the changing preferences among the oilseed growers for pulses. This tilt was mainly due to the remunerative prices that Red Gram fetches.
Farmers had taken up sowing of oilseed crops only in 2.71 lakh hectares this year. Agriculture experts said that already many oil mills in north Karnataka had closed down owing to non-availability of sunflower or groundnut. In the days to come, the situation is expected to worsen further and a sudden spurt in prices of edible oil is predicted. The price of the sunflower oilseeds, which hovered around Rs. 1,500 per quintal in the last two seasons, is now being offered at Rs. 3,000 plus per quintal. This is expected to increase further due to the fall in production. In Karnataka alone, oilseed production is likely to fall by more than 50 per cent due to the steep reduction in the area under oilseed cultivation.
Principal scientific adviser on sunflower in the University of Agriculture Sciences, Raichur, Shankare Gowda, told The Hindu that the main reason for the farmers to shift over to Red Gram was the remunerative prices it fetched last year. However, the situation is likely to change from next year since the prices of Red Gram was not very remunerative this year. In fact, price of sunflower in the wholesale market was very high.
As against the target fixed by the Government of 4.28 lakh hectares for sunflower cultivation, only in 1.95 lakh hectares was covered in the State. As against the target of 78,000 hectares, the farmers had taken up sowing only on 60,000 hectares. Another reason cited for traditional sunflower cultivating farmers to shift to pulses was the widespread attack of the ‘Bud Narcosis' virus which plays havoc at the time of bud formation of the crop.