Mentha oil production is likely to rise 23 per cent this year on bumper output estimates of its raw material - mentha - an aromatic herb used for medicinal oil extraction.
Used abundantly in cosmetic and food industry as "mint" for flavour, mentha oil output is estimated to remain at around 65,000 tonnes this year, compared to 53,000 tonnes in the previous year.
"Sowing has already begun with the small spell of rainfall in December, which is set to pick up steadily to take its full swing by February 15. Overall sowing area, therefore, is expected to remain higher this year," said Dharmendra Kumar, a Chandausi (Uttar Pradesh)-based mentha oil trader.
Consequently, the total area under mentha crop cultivation is expected to remain 20 per cent higher to 2.10 lakh hectares (ha) this year from the level of 1.75 lakh ha during the previous year. Mentha crop requires considerable moisture well distributed throughout the entire growing season. As roots do not penetrate deep in the soil, light and frequent irrigations remain useful.
Sowing of mentha crop begins with intermittent rainfall during the shivering cold season in the major producing states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.
Primarily driven by unorganised sector players, the mentha oil industry depends largely upon industrial growth for its demand and realisation. The ban on gutkha sales by a number of Indian states hampered mentha oil demand from domestic sector resulting to its price falling to Rs 1,170 a kg on October 3, 2012 from Rs 1,686.50 a kg a year ago.
Also, its demand slowed from overseas markets due to weakening global economies. Of late, however, its demand revived from user industries. Consequently, the price recovered from its lows late last year to trade today at Rs 1,248.3 a kg on the benchmark Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) for near month delivery contract.