India’s Major Crops: Soyabean

Since time immemorial, Soyabean has served as meat, milk, cheese, bread as well as oil for the people of China and East Asia; and the ancient literature of those countries called it as “gold from soil”. Off late, its versatility was recognized by the west, which called it “golden bean” or “miracle bean”. Due to its immense potential as food, feed, fodder, fuel and industrial production; Soyabean is said to have revolutionized the agricultural economy of west, particularly of United States.

Global Production Figures

Currently, United States is world’s largest Soyabean Producer with 89 million tonnes production every year. United States is followed by Brazil and Argentina. The below chart shows that most of the Soyabean of the world is produced in Americas only. China and India are next large producers.

Production in India

With 12 million tonnes of production; Soyabean is one of the fastest growing crops in India. Soyabean is grown as a Kharif Crop in India. The top three Soyabean growing states are Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have 45 and 40% share in production respectively.

Importance of Soyabean

Soyabean is recognized as one of the premier crops around the world. It’s a major source of vegetable oil, protein and animal feed. Due to high protein content (>40%) and high oil content (>20%), Soyabean is considered to be an important food commodity. The Soya Protein is called complete protein because it supplies sufficient amount of amino acids. Soyabean oil contains no cholesterol.

Exceptional Growth of Soyabean in India

Soyabean is India’s one of the fastest growing crops and a significant foreign exchange earner. With a humble start of meagre 0.44 million tonnes production in 1980-81; Soyabean has become a major export earner today. Government started its Soyabean development programme in 1960s; and there was a rapid expansion in acreage (24 fold increase) between 1972 and 1984. Yields per hectare also achieved significant growth in that period.

There were several reasons of this exceptional growth. Firstly, there was a development of those varieties that suited well to India’s soils, particularly in rainfed areas. Then, the utilization of Kharif fallows was advantageous. Further, prices of soya products are linked to global prices; so this commodity has exceptional price realization. Finally, Indian Government’s aggressive Soyabean development programme helped it to grow by leaps and bounds. We note here that the government programme was basically focussed to promote Soyabean so that it can offset the import dependency in edible oil.

Soyabean in India: Shifts in Area and Production Share

In 1970s, the highest share of Soyabean production in India was that of Maharashtra (56%) followed by Madhya Pradesh (24%) and Uttar Pradesh (18%). However, from that decade onward, Madhya Pradesh outperformed all states and emerged as India’s Soy State. Today, Madhya Pradesh has 45% share in Soyabean Production in the country. Hoshangabad, Indore, Betul, Ujjain and Dewas are some of the Soy districts of that state.

Problems of Soyabean

At present, India exports 55% of its soya meal. However, the Soya industry of the country is crippled by low yield, limited domestic demand, inadequate irrigation and infrastructure / marketing bottlenecks. Most of the Soyabean is produced in rainfed areas.

The country can overcome these bottlenecks by doubling yields through mechanized sowing and harvesting; improving market access for cultivators; improving irrigation in farms. Governments can also promote the domestic consumption of Soya as integral part of a high protein diet.

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