The country, which is dependent on the imports of edible oil to meet over 60 per cent of its domestic demand, has seen a sharp rise in retail prices of various types of cooking oils in the last couple of months due to the global geopolitical situation. The prices have continued to rule firm despite several government measures.
“The government has taken many measures. A recent step is that we have initiated an inspection drive from April 1 to curb hoarding and black marketing of edible oils and oilseeds,” food secretary Sudhanshu Pandey told PTI.
Pandey said that a central team along with state government officials is conducting inspections in various oilseeds- and edible oil-producing states.
Large states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are being covered now, he said, adding that the drive will be intensified in the coming days.
About other measures, the secretary said the government has already cut import duty on edible oils, extended stock holding limits till end of this year and ensured early clearance of vessels at ports, besides facilitating imports through private traders.
In order to enforce the stock limit orders, eight central teams have been deputed to ensure strict compliance.
“The surprise inspections are presently underway in selected districts of eight states for checking the stocks of edible oils and oilseeds at ground level i.e, with the retailers, wholesalers, big chain retailers and processors,” an official statement said.
These states are Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Gujarat, West Bengal and Delhi. Strict action as per the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act will be initiated against the violators, the statement added.
That apart, Pandey said, the Centre is holding regular meetings with states to ensure the maximum retail price fixed by wholesalers is adhered to by the retailers.
In the case of sunflower oil, the secretary said Russia and Ukraine are the two major suppliers, and private traders are making efforts to source from other countries, but it would be of a small quantity.
As per the data maintained by the consumer affairs ministry, there has been sharp surge in average retail prices of soyabean oil, sunflower oil and palm oil in the last three months.
The average retail price of sunflower oil is ruling as high as Rs 184.58 per kg as on April 4 compared to the rate of Rs 161.71 a kg on January 1 this year.
Similarly, the average retail price of soyabean oil has increased to Rs 162.13 per kg from Rs 148.59 per kg, while that of palm oil has risen to Rs 151.59 per kg from Rs 128.28 per kg in the said period.
The average groundnut oil prices were ruling flat at Rs 181.74 per kg on April 4, but mustard oil saw an increase of Rs 2.78 per kg to hit Rs 188.54 in the said period.
The official statement also said: “The government has notified a central order on March 30, 2022, amending the removal of licensing requirements, stock limits and movement restrictions on specified foodstuffs order, 2016 and its central order dated February 3, 2022 by extending the stock limits for all edible oils and oilseeds put together for a period up to December 31, 2022 for all states/Union Territories”.
Six states viz. Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan and Bihar, which had issued their own control orders in pursuance of the central order dated October 8, 2022, have also been brought under the purview of the latest order with effect from April 1, 2022.
“At present, the domestic production of edible oils is unable to meet the country’s domestic demand. The Country has to rely on a large scale on imports to meet the gap between demand and supply. Around 56% of the edible oils segment consumed in the country is met through imports. The recent geo-political events have pushed the international prices of all edible oils to all-time high level,” the statement added.
Therefore, the food ministry said that there was a need to inspect the domestic market participants to ensure that no unfair practices like hoarding and profiteering are being resorted to by unscrupulous elements.
The stock limit order notified by the government empowers the Union government and all states/UTs to regulate storage and distribution of edible oils and oilseeds.
“This step coupled with surprise inspections seeks to help the government in checking hoarding of edible oils and oilseeds in the country and ensure that the prices of edible oils, which is a basic necessity, do not go out of reach of common man,” the statement said.