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Mustard is a well-known oil seed and an annual crop. It has round stem with long inter-modes, simple, alternate and very soft yellowish green leaves. The fruit is a pod containing seeds. Dry mustard seeds are small, round and darkish-brown or grayish-brown in color. They have no smell, but when pounded and moistured with water, they emit a peculiar strong smell.
Mustard oil is of vegetable origin and is obtained from seeds of the black and white (Sinapis alba) mustard plants. In the crude state, black mustard oil (Brassica nigra, light color) has a spicy odor and a strong taste. When refined it is neutral in odor and taste. White mustard oil (yellow color) has a bitingly pungent taste due to the allyl mustard oil it contains.
India is the fourth largest oilseed producing country in the world, with mustard seed having major percentage of this. Black mustard is a native of Eurasia. It has been in cultivation in, Europe, Belgium, China, India, Japan for a long time. This was the first species to provide table mustard for use as a condiment. It has been used by Romans, Greeks and Indians since ancient times.
Mustard oil is the third largest edible oil produced in the world after Soy oil and Palm oil. At a production level of 13-14 million tons, it accounts for about 12% of the total World's edible oil production. Our ancient holy literatures i.e. VEDS, UPNISHADS, CHARAK SANHITA etc. had emphasized the medicinal values of Mustard Oil apart to their unparallel use in cooking, pickles and massage.
Mustard oil is composed mostly of the fatty acids oleic acid, linoleic acid and erucic acid. At 5%, mustard seed oil has the lowest saturated fat content of the edible oils.
Due to its high content of erucic acid, which is considered noxious, mustard oil is not considered suitable for human consumption in the United States, Canada and the European Union, although mustard oil with a low content of erucic acid is available.
In India, mustard oil is generally heated almost to smoking before it is used for cooking; this may be an attempt to reduce the content of noxious substances, and does reduce the strong smell and taste.
To get around the restriction in Western countries, the oil is often sold "for external use only" in stores catering to Indian immigrants.
In India the restrictions on mustard oil are viewed as an attempt by foreign multi-national corporations to replace mustard oil with canola oil, a variety of rapeseed with a low erucic acid content.
But for North Indians, mustard oil is not just a cooking medium but it is very much intricately interwoven with their culture. They have been using it for ages and dispute that there is enough evidence for the toxicity of erucic acid.
The global production of rapeseed and its oil is around 38-42 and 12-14 million tons. China (11-12 million tons), EU (10-13 million tons), Canada (6-7 million tons) and India (4-7 million tons) are the world's major producers. 4.5-6, 1.5 and 2.5 million tons of seed, oil and meal are traded globally.
Canada (2.5-3.5 million tons) and Australia (1.5 million tons) are major exporters, while Japan (2 million tons) and Mexico (1 million tons) are the major importers of seed. Canada is the major exporter of oil too. US is the major importer of oil.
India produces 4-7, 1-2, 2-4 million tons of seed, oil and mustard. India does not export or import seed and oil. Meal is exported. Rapeseed & mustard is cultivated in the rabi season (Oct-Nov to Feb-Mar). Production is highly dependent on the weather.
The major growing states are Rajasthan (40%), Uttar Pradesh (16%), Haryana/Punjab (15%). The oil content varies between 36-42%, with average oil recovery of 34-35%. The remaining is used as rapeseed meal cake.
Hapur, Jaipur, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Indore, Alwar, Bharatpur, Jaipur, Sriganganagar in Rajasthan; Lawrence Road at Delhi are the major trading centers for rapeseed. India exports around 4 lakh tons of meal.