New Delhi: The central government will push for more domestic rice bran oil production, in a bid to counter the inflation in edible oil prices across the country.
In a press conference Friday, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey stressed that India has huge rice bran oil production potential, given the country’s paddy production, and that this will be exploited going ahead. India’s rice production has surged to a record high in the past few years, owing to the expansion in the area under paddy cultivation.
“The country has the potential to produce up to 18-19 lakh tonnes (LT) of rice bran oil, while we are producing just 11 LT of it. This increase in rice bran oil production will help in improving edible oil availability in the country, while also reducing our dependence on imported oil and related price fluctuation, which led to severe price inflation this year,” Pandey said.
“The Food Corporation of India (FCI) is holding workshops with states to assess the potential of rice bran oil production in their rice clusters, and enhance the capacity of rice mills to ensure oil is extracted to the maximum. Many states, such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, MP, UP, Punjab, and Haryana, have agreed to set up rice bran oil mills and increase its production in their states,” he added.
Healthier, cheaper option
Rice bran oil is extracted from the outer bran of rice grains, also known as husk or chaff. The oil is widely used owing to its high smoking point (the temperature at which cooking oils start to burn and smoke) of 232 degrees Celsius (450 degrees Fahrenheit), and mild flavour, which is suitable for different cooking techniques like stirs and deep fries.
Rice bran oil is also widely considered to be more healthy than palm oil and vanaspati, as it helps maintain low cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels, and so, is recommended for those suffering from heart ailments and diabetes. Tocotrienols, a group of antioxidants found in rice bran oil, also reportedly help lower cancer risks.
Government agency NAFED has also launched its fortified rice bran oil earlier this year.
The increase in domestic rice bran oil production is also likely to ease the price and availability of edible oils in the country, as India is the largest importer of edible oils. The country imported edible oils worth Rs 75,000 crore between November 2019 and October 2020.
Palm oil from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia comprises over half of the imports. However, it is not only less healthy than rice bran oil, but is also prone to international price fluctuations, which in turn raise its price in India.
The price of palm oil has gone up by over 60 per cent — to Rs 138 per kg on 1 June 2021 from Rs 86 per kg on 1 June 2020. The 2021 figure is its highest recorded price in the past 11 years.
‘Duty cuts on edible oils to check prices’
The Food Secretary also talked about the government undertaking major duty cuts in edible oil imports, and hoped that the effect of these steps will be visible soon and the prices of edible oil will start decreasing in the coming months.
He also pointed out that mustard oil production in India is set to increase by 10 LT in the coming season, owing to higher area under cultivation, which will also help bring down prices of edible oils domestically.
The central government has also asked state governments to curb hoarding and impose stock limits on edible oil and oilseeds if necessary, to bring down prices, said Pandey. “
State governments will start fixing the stock limit from next week, after holding talks with traders. We are also checking prices of other commodities like pulses, onions, and tomatoes, and will take necessary action to check their price rise,” he said.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)