MUMBAI, March 17 (Reuters) - India rapeseed production in crop year 2016/17 is likely to jump by as much as 20 percent to the highest in three years at 7 million tonnes as farmers expanded the area planted with the oilseed due to ample rainfall and higher prices.
Rapeseed, a type of mustard, is the main winter-sown oilseed in India and higher production will help the country in trimming its edible oils imports.
India, the world's biggest buyer of edible oils, primarily imports palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia and soyoil from Argentina and Brazil. It also imports small amounts of sunflower oil from Ukraine.
"This year (rapeseed) production will recover as weather was good. We are expecting production between 6.5 million to 7 million tonnes," said B.V. Mehta, head of the Solvent Extractors' Association (SEA), a Mumbai-based trade body.
The higher output of rapeseed and also summer-sown soybeans will help India reduce its edible oil imports for the first time in six years, to 14 million tonnes in the year to October 2017, down from 14.6 million tonnes shipped a year ago, Mehta said.
The association is conducting a field survey to assess yields and will release its estimate on March 25, he said.
In crop year 2015/16, India produced 5.8 million tonnes of rapeseed.
India's soybean production, harvested in October, rose to 11.5 million tonnes, up from 7.0 million tonnes a year ago, the biggest annual output jump in more than a decade, boosting supplies and dragging down prices.
At the time of rapeseed sowing in November, prices of the oilseed were near record high levels, which prompted farmers to expand the planted area for the crop to 7.06 million hectares, up 9.3 percent from a year ago.
Since then prices have fallen 20 percent on expectations of a bumper crop and as prices of edible oils like palm oil and soyoil fell overseas.
The decline in prices has disappointed farmers like Ganesh Meghval from the top-producing northwestern state of Rajasthan.
"Expecting higher prices I have raised the area under rapeseed and applied more fertilizers. But at the current price level I am making hardly any profit," said Meghval.
Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Tom Hogue