India’s edible oil industry taking measures to avoid any shortage of workers

India’s edible oil industry is taking measures to avoid any shortage of workers as mustard harvesting and soybean crushing are in full swing. Increasing Covid-19 cases and imposition of tighter restrictions including lockdown in some states have created anxiety among migrant workers and the industry is seeking to allay their fears.

Company executives said they are arranging food and housing for the workers in factory premises and vaccination camps for those who are aged 45 years and above so that they can work in the fields and factories. They said the companies are also organising transport for the migrant workers who want to go back to their hometowns to meet their families so that they do not face last year’s harrowing experience.

“We have two factories – one at Bahadurgarh in Haryana and the other at Damtal in Himachal Pradesh. We have arranged for the stay and food for the migrant workers in our factories,” Umesh Verma, marketing head, Puri Oil Mills, told ET. “This time we are well-prepared and taking necessary actions. We do not feel there will be any prolonged lockdown this year like last year.”

Mustard harvesting is currently on in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar and West Bengal. “It is estimated that the country will produce around 85-90 lakh tonnes of mustard seeds this year,” said BV Mehta, executive director of the Solvent Extractors Association of India.

Vijay Data, managing director at Rajasthan-based Vijay Solvex, said: “As of now, we have not faced any problem regarding availability of workers. We are talking to our workers regularly and we have organised vaccination camps for our workers who are 45 years and above. Once the government comes out with modalities for vaccination of 18 years and above, we will organise camps for the young people too.”

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DN Pathak, executive director of the Soybean Processors Association of India, said, “As of now, we are seeing no problems regarding availability of workers. Soybean crushing is going on in full swing. We are asking people to maintain the Covid protocol and encouraging them to get vaccinated.”

India’s edible oil industry provides about one million jobs directly.

Mustard harvesting has gained importance in the country in the backdrop of rising soybean oil prices.

“Production has gone up for mustard seed this winter. Had it not been for mustard, our oil import bill would have shot up and definitely impacted our supply chain,” said Mehta. “The icing on the cake for our mustard farmers is that they are earning fantastic returns from their crop. This hike in oilseed prices has the potential of not only increasing our production in coming years but also helping in improving rural prosperity.”


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