Pune: Roads cleared for import of 12 lakh tonnes of GM soyameal

This is the first time that India has allowed the import of GM de-oiled soyacake which would be used as a raw material in the poultry feed industry.

Roads have been finally cleared for import of 12 lakh tonnes (lt) of genetically modified (GM) de-oiled soya cake after the director general of foreign trade (DGFT) issued the necessary notification late Tuesday night. This is the first time that India has allowed the import of GM deoiled soyacake which would be used as a raw material in the poultry feed industry.

Abnormally high prices of soyabean has seen the poultry industry complaining about the exorbitantly high price of de-oiled soya cake or meal. Used as the protein source in the feed, prices had escalated from the normal Rs 40/kg to Rs 110/kg. Since May, the industry has been asking for imports citing the high prices which they said had put many small poultry firms out of business. The industry had blamed mindless speculation in the commodity markets for the high prices of their raw material.

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On August 6, Bahadur Ali, president of All India Poultry Breeders Association (PBA), had written to the ministry of animal husbandry seeking permission to import. Following this, the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change gave nod for the imports.

On August 11, SK Dutta, the joint commissioner of the Animal Husbandry Commissionerate wrote to Ali, giving the nod for the imports. Ali and other poultry farmers have been asking for duty free imports as domestic prices of the GM soyameal have skyrocketed. The letter, however, stated that the import would be allowed as soya de-oiled cake as it is a non-living organism.

Interestingly, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) a special committee under the ministry entrusted to govern matters related to GM crops, etc, was bypassed given the non-living nature of the material. After moving from ministries of Commerce and Consume affairs, the matter had reached DGFT’s court which cleared the matter on Tuesday.

The notification has cleared imports of 12 lt of crushed and de-oiled GM soya cake with the condition that the imports should arrive before October 31. DGFT has allowed the imports to land only at two ports viz Nhava Sheva (Jawarharlal Nehru Memorial Port Navi Mumbai) and the land port of Petrapole in West Bengal.

Various farmers organisations had opposed the imports saying it would affect the realisation of the new soyabean crop which is to hit the markets soon. The better prices of the oilseed has seen farmers go for the same in preference to crops like cotton. Thus, India has reported sowing over 121.09 lakh hectares this kharif which last year was 119.91 lakh hectares.

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