Economy, Domestic Economy

Challenges of Vegetable Oil Production

Challenges of Vegetable Oil ProductionChallenges of Vegetable Oil Production

Iran’s vegetable oil consumption is above global average, which has put the product in the government’s list of top imported commodities. Imports, accounting for 92% of domestic consumption, have sounded the alarm for policymakers to take measures to increase domestic production. However, to that end, there are challenges to overcome.

Minister of Agricultural Jihad Mahmoud Hojjati earlier announced the launch of a plan for development of oilseeds’ cultivation, Forsat-e Emrooz reported.

The ministry’s plan, according to Hojjati, is aimed at increasing production of oilseeds such as rapeseed (colza) as an alternative for wheat. The plan also introduces soil preservation measures and usage of high-grade seeds along with the provision of latest technologies.

The government’s plan for promoting vegetable oil production comes as Iran’s experience in the cultivation has seen many ups and downs.

Since 1961, vegetable oil consumption has almost doubled every decade. Nevertheless, the production, although increasing to some extent, never kept pace with the increasing demand.

Soybean and rapeseed registered more increases. The production of soybean, from 5,700 tons in 1971 increased to 240,000 tons by 2006. Also rapeseed, which was never cultivated until 1985, managed to surpass soybean production in the mid 2000s. This is while during the same period, production of crops such as sunflower fell from 37,000 to 33,000 tons.

To increase production in the early 2000s, the government implemented a few projects which, according to many experts, could have cut the dependence on imports by 50%. Nevertheless, lack of proper policies regarding sales of the crops caused more than 1 million tons of oilseeds cultivated by farmers to go to waste.

Lack of infrastructure, experts believe, are still in place and could be a challenge for the government when it comes to implementing new plans for increasing production.

Experts believe that since crops such as rapeseed are perishable products and easily destroyed in conditions such as cold weather, there need to be policies to insure the crops are purchased and delivered to the factories before they go bad, which is around 20 days from harvesting for rapeseed.

Many suggest methods used in countries such as Hungary. The Hungarian government has created a supply chain in which crops are sold to factories under government supervision. There is also an insurance mechanism that compensates for possible losses incurred by farmers.

Many also blame lack of adequate research and modern technologies and equipment for the shortage of oilseeds production.

Head of National Assembly of Agriculture Elites Ali Khanmohammadi says the first step in boosting the cultivation of oilseeds is to upgrade outdated studies on climate and land that are essential for farming. That, according to the expert, should be followed by transfer of latest technologies and equipment to farmlands to mechanize oilseeds production.