Rajesh Agrawal had built two large oilseed crushing mills in central India, betting on rising local consumption of edible oils. But now after 30 years of soaring demand and good business, his main mill is shut and covered in grass.
Agrawal's shuttered soybean plant highlights the malaise gripping Indian crushers, who have been forced to use a fraction of their capacity as the domestic market stays awash with cheap rival palm oil from top producers Malaysia and Indonesia.
Now with Malaysian palm oil prices near 6-1/2 year lows, imports could rise even more, undermining Prime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts to make the country self-sufficient in edible oils, overseas purchases of which exceed $10 billion per year - India's third-highest such spend after oil and gold.
"In the next year, palm oil imports could rise up to 10 million tonnes from around 9.3 million tonnes this year. At the current price level other oils can't compete with palm oil," said Nitesh Shahra, president of the refinery division of Ruchi Soya, the country's biggest edible oil refiner.
"Already our import dependency has gone up from 30 percent to nearly 70 percent in the last few years. It will go up further unless we make oilseeds remunerative for farmers by increasing import duty," he added.