New Delhi: India can now import poppy seeds, used to produce opium, from 16 countries as against 11 nations earlier, a move which would help in bridging the demand-supply gap.
Opium is mainly used for manufacturing alkaloids for pharmaceuticals.
In a notification, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has said "the number of countries from which import of poppy seeds is allowed is increased from 11 to 16".
The 16 countries include Australia, France, China, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey.
The new countries added in the list are - UK, Korea, Macedonia, Germany and Ukraine.
According to industry experts, area under cultivation of poppy seeds in the country has declined leading to a fall in the domestic production.
As per estimates, the output this year was only 4,000 tonnes against the requirement of about 40,000 tonnes a year. Thus the country remains a net importer and one of the major consumers of this commodity in the world.
Poppy seeds are also used in sambhar, chutney, sweets and rice dishes. Normally, the demand for poppy seeds starts from March to December and Kolkata is the biggest buyer.
Narcotic Control Board (NCB) grants permission for production of opium. The crop in Turkey, the major supplier, is also reportedly less as growing area has been reduced there also on the directions of the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB).
Vienna-based INCB is the global controlling body of the commodity.