NEW DELHI, INDIA — The Indian government’s decision to permit imports of soybean meal has lowered domestic soybean prices and “contributed to the financial survival” of the domestic meat and poultry industries, according to a recent Global Agriculture Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The government began allowing imports in September, when domestic soybean prices had skyrocketed to an astronomical peak of $1,365 per tonne, nearly four times higher than the price in October 2020. Prices fell to below $600 per tonne in October but then rose to more than $800 per tonne in November.

The soaring prices have occurred despite domestic production being forecast to reach 11.9 million tonnes, which would be India’s highest output in 10 years, the report noted.

“Despite increased production, industry resources report that there is continued speculation and hoarding through forward trade contracts in the marketplace and commodity exchanges,” the USDA said.

 Traditionally self-sufficient in soybean meal, India’s imports are forecast by the USDA to reach 850,000 tonnes in marketing year 2021-22 (October-September), more than doubling the previous year’s total, according to the USDA.

The All-India Poultry Breeders Association, a local industry body advocating the poultry industry’s interests, fearing a repetition of this year’s earlier skyrocketing soybean meal prices, is petitioning the Ministry of Animal Husbandry and Dairying for an extension of the timeline for soybean imports through March 31, 2022.

According to industry sources, India has imported roughly 650,000 tonnes of soybean meal through mid-November, mainly from Argentina, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. The USDA said the possibility of an extension will enable the domestic poultry industry to access an additional 550,000 tonnes of quality feed, while generating revenues of $47 million for the government through import duties and taxes.

The All-India Poultry Breeders Association also is requesting the imposition of on stock limits on warehouses in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh.