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NEW DELHI, Aug 9 - India will launch a 110 billionrupee ($1.48 billion) plan to boost domestic oilseed productionto make the country self-sufficient in edible oil, PrimeMinister Narendra Modi said on Monday, a move that will cutcostly vegetable oil imports.
India is the world's biggest vegetable oil importer andspends an average of $8.5-$10 billion annually on edible oilimports.
The country produces less than half of the roughly 24million tonnes of edible oil that it consumes annually. Itimports the rest, buying palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia,soyoil from Brazil and Argentina, and sunflower oil, mainly fromRussia and Ukraine.
India does export agricultural commodities such as sugar andrice on the world market, but domestic oilseed production isnearly six times lower than rice and wheat on average.
"The government will invest more than 110 billion rupees viathe National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm to provide farmerseverything possible, including better seeds and technology,"Modi said on Twitter.
"When India is emerging as a major exporter of farm goods,we should not depend on imports for our edible oilrequirements," Modi said.
India's vegetable oil imports have surged to 15 milliontonnes from 4 million only two decades ago, according to tradersand industry officials. They said imports could reach 20 millionby 2030, boosted by a growing population with higher incomes anda taste for calorie-laden curry and fried food.
Atul Chaturvedi, president of the Solvent ExtractorsAssociation of India, an industry body, said it was a giant stepto help India to become self-sufficient in edible oil. REUTERS