Oil Seeds: Area, Production and Issues

A large variety of oil seeds are produced in India such as groundnut, castor seed, sesame, rapeseed and mustard, linseed, Soybean, sunflower, nigerseed and safflower. India holds a significant share in world oil seed production. It is second largest producer of groundnut after China and third largest producer of Rapeseed after China and Canada.

Area and Production Trends

Area under oil seeds in India remains between 22 to 29 million hectares while production of the major oil seeds remains between 20 to 33 million tonnes.

Area and Production of Major Oil seeds
2001-02 22.6420.66
2002-03 21.4914.84
2003-04 23.6625.19
2004-05 27.5224.35
2005-06 27.8627.98
2006-07 26.5124.29
2007-08 26.6929.76
2008-09 27.5627.72
2009-10 25.9624.88
2010-11 27.2232.48
2011-12 26.3129.8
2012-13 26.4830.94
2013-14 28.0532.75
2014-15 25.5927.51
2015-16* 26.1325.3
Area: million hectare, Production: Million Tonnes
Source: Handbook of Agriculture, 2016

We note that in 1951, India produced a meagre 5 million tonnes of oil seeds. This number went up to 9 million tonnes in 1970 and there has been remarkable progress. Currently, oil seeds share 14% of the area under major crops. At present, India’s largest oilseed producing state is Gujarat, thanks to its position as top groundnut producing state of India. Rajasthan is India’s top Rapeseed & Mustard producing state, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. Almost half (48.12%) of Rapeseed and Mustard is produced by only Rajasthan. India’s top Soyabean producing state is Madhya Pradesh with a share of 44% in India’s total production of this protein rich crop. Among other oil crops, Karnataka is largest producer of Sunflower.

Oil seeds Production: The Issue of Alarming Import Dependency

The current demand for vegetable oil in India in 2015-16 was around 235 million tonnes. This demand is met from domestic sources and imports. The domestic sources of vegetable oil are of two types viz. primary and secondary.

  • Primary sources include Groundnut, Rapeseed (Mustard), Soyabean, Sunflower, Sesamum, Niger seeds, Safflower, Castor and Linseed.
  • Secondary sources include Coconut, Cottonseed, Rivebran, Solvent Extracted Oils and oils from Tree and forest origin.

Primary sources cover around 60MT of the total demand, while secondary cover 29 MT, thus making domestic supply to meet around 89MT of the total domestic demand. Of this, around 5MT is exported or used in industries. The Net domestic availability of Edible Oils thus remains around 86.37 MT and rest is met through imports. In 2015-16, India imported 148.20 million tonnes of edible oils. Thus, India has an alarming level of import dependency on oil.

The above discussion makes it clear that a huge demand-supply gap exists and India is number one edible oil importer of the world. The 60-65% import dependency worsens during the unfavorable monsoon years.

The reason is that domestic demand for vegetable oils and fats has been rising rapidly at the rate of 6% per year but domestic output has been increasing at just about 2 per cent per annum. In India, the average yields of most oilseeds are extremely low as compared to those other countries of the world. The cultivation of oilseeds in India is in high risk regions where there are uncertain returns on the investments.

Issues in Oilseed Production

The policy impetus to oilseed production in India came for the first time in 1986 when the government launched Technology Mission on Oilseed. This was a golden period for oilseed production in India when productivity jumped from 670 kg per hectare in the eighties to 835 kg per hectare in the nineties. However, after that there has been a slow pace of growth. Today, the major problem in oil seeds production is low productivity. India is way behind the developed countries and neighbouring countries like China in its productivity of oil seeds per hectare. Since the increase in production could not keep pace with increased demand, India became more and more dependent on edible oil imports. One of the biggest constraints to raising oilseed output has been that production is largely in rain-fed areas. Only one fourth of the oilseed producing area in the country remains under the irrigation.

Measures to improve Oilseed Production

Key measures to improve oilseeds production include

  • Bringing additional oilseed areas under irrigation
  • Promotion of modern crop technology and better dry farming
  • Promoting oil palm cultivation.
  • Further, there is a need to enlarge the scope of research, technology diffusion and institutional intervention to re-energize the oil sector. This would include increase public research spending in oilseed crops for development of biotic and abiotic stress tolerant varieties.
  • Strengthen the oilseed crop seed chain, particularly in groundnut to match the variety specific demand for higher yield.
  • Provide incentives to private sector participation in processing and value addition in oilseed crops. Also, constraints for low capacity utilization should be addressed.
  • Ensure availability of key physical (fertilizers, pesticides), financial (credit facilities, crop insurance) and technical inputs (extension services) in major crop ecological zones for oilseed crops.

Apart from this, other measures would include market reforms and policies, such as contract farming and public-private partnership in production and processing, to ensure a competitive market for oilseeds and edible oil along with adequate protective measures to avoid unfair competition from the international markets.

Overview of Major Oil Seed Crops


Groundnut is most important oil seeds of India accounting for half of the major oilseeds produced in the country. Groundnut is predominantly a Kharif crop but is also sown as a Rabi crop. 90-95% of the total area is devoted to kharif crop. It is a legume which thrives best in tropical climate and requires 20°C to 30°C temperature; 50-75 cm rainfall. The crop is highly susceptible to frost, drought, continuous rain and stagnant water. It needs dry winder at the time of ripening.  Well drained light sandy loams, red, yellow and black soils are well suited for its cultivation. In 2015-16, the top three states producing ground nut were Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

Rapeseed / Mustard

Mustard is second most important oil seed crop of India after Groundnut. This planet belongs to cabbage family (Brassica) and farmers in India mainly grow three species of Mustard as follows:

  • India Mustard (Rai / Mohr locally) (Botanical name – Brassica juncea) has small and reddish brown seeds and accounts for around 70% of total mustard production in India.
  • Mustard or Peeli (Yellow) Sarson (Brassica campestric) has thicker pods and yellowish brown seeds with thin seed coats.
  • Rape Seed or Toria (Brassica napus) has reddish seeds and is mainly grown in Punjab.

Mustard seeds have 25-45% oil content and its oil cake makes an important cattle feed and manure. The plant thrives in north and west India, mainly Satluj-Ganga plain. Its generally grown as a Rabi crop either purely or as mixed cropping with wheat or gram or barley. India has largest area and highest production of mustard. Currently, Rajasthan is top Mustard producing state of India, followed by Haryana and MP.

Sesamum (Til)

The Sesamum seed comprises of 45 to 50 per cent oil used for cooking purposes and for manufacturing perfumery and medicines. India has the world’s largest area under Sesamum and is also the largest producer of this crop accounting for one-third of the world production. Its mainly a Rainfed crop in India.


Linseed (Alsi in Hindi) has a unique drying property and is suitable for manufacturing of paints, varnishes, printing ink etc. A small part is used as edible oil also.

Castor Seed

Castor seed comprises 50 per cent oil. It is mostly used in industries.

Palm Oil

India produces a very small fraction of palm oil but is one of the largest consumers. Most of India’s palm oil requirement is met by imports from Indonesia and Malaysia.

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