April 3, 2024

India's feed producers compete for corn with exporters and other industries

An eFeedLink Exclusive


This year, India could produce around 28 million metric tonnes (MMT) of poultry feed, 16MMT of cattle feed and 3.5MMT of aquafeed.

With most raw materials needed for animal feed produced in India, the country may now face shortages as the animal husbandry sector is growing faster than crop production.

The availability of quality feed ingredients and their prices are major challenges for producing compound feeds.

Meanwhile, India is expected to divert around 15MMT of corn to ethanol production in the next five to six years. Around 5-6MMT of the distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS) will be available as a protein source for animal feed.

Additionally, about 2-3 tonnes of corn are exported from India. To make up for the shortfall, the government should divert land for rice and wheat cultivation towards corn production to produce around 50-60MMT in the next five to six years. Such a move can collectively meet the needs of the feed, food and ethanol sectors as well as make provisions for corn exports.

India ranks seventh in corn production, representing around 2% of total global corn production. During the 2023-24 period, areas under corn cultivation in the country have reached 10.88 million hectares, with average productivity at around 3000kg/ha.

In India, corn is primarily grown in the rainy and winter seasons. Rainy-season corn represents around 83% of local corn areas, while winter corn occupies 17% of corn areas.

In recent times, spring corn areas have undergone rapid growth in northwestern India. Unfortunately, the area and production data of spring corn are not well documented. Unofficial estimates put the area to be around 150,000 hectares.

Among the Indian states, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have the highest amount of areas under corn cultivation (15% each) followed by Maharashtra (10%), Rajasthan (9%) and Uttar Pradesh (8%).

India's corn production in the 2023-24 period is expected to be around 33 million tonnes. Almost 45% of total corn production, or 15 million tonnes, is diverted towards poultry feed. Around five tonnes are allocated to feed dairy cattle. Around five tonnes is used by the starch-producing industry (India's food and beverage industry also needs around three tonnes of corn). So far, around one million tonnes will be converted to ethanol this year.

Furthermore, around 2.2-2.5MMT will be exported to Nepal, Bangladesh and Southeast Asian countries. Non-feed use of corn and speculations will put a strain on corn prices during the lean period.

In response to those developments, the All India Poultry Breeder Association demanded for duty-free corn imports to meet the needs of the feed industry and other sectors.

Once corn prices rise beyond US$0.25/kg, it will become unsustainable for poultry feed producers and farmers. As 95% of poultry is sold as commodities in India, increased costs of production cannot be passed on to consumers.

The long-term approach will be to improve yields in India and increase areas for corn production. Therefore, India should allow genetically modified corn imports during the lean period as well as permit them for plantation.

It should be noted that even if the import of non-GM corn is allowed, it is difficult to source them at a favourable price. Currently, the basic import duty on corn is 50%.

Another challenge for corn use in animal feed is mycotoxin contamination. Keeping the right amount of moisture and proper storage will reduce fungus growth and mycotoxin contamination.

While toxin binders have been used in commercial animal feed, the prevention of mycotoxin production is a more preferred approach.


- Dr. Dinesh Bhosale

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