India's rice bran oil extraction units, dominated by SMEs, have reason to smile. Increase in domestic demand and the government decision's, taken last year, to remove the quantitative ceiling of 20,000 tonnes on export of branded consumer packs of up to five kg of edible bran oil, have combined to boost the industry's prospects. Rice bran oil is exported to the United States, Australia, Sri Lanka and China, among other countries.
India has around 200 rice bran oil extraction units spread across Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, of which 150-160 are crude rice bran oil extraction units. The rest are refined rice bran oil producers. The country produces around 900,000 tonnes of crude rice bran oil annually, of which 300,000 tonnes is consumed as edible oil, while the rest is used by the vanaspati industry or is blended with other oils. Five years ago, India's total installed capacity was only 300,000 tonnes.
A R Sharma, chairman and managing director, Ricela Group, said, "Consumption has been increasing by 20-25 per cent per annum for the last three years, which is a healthy sign for the industry. Secondly, the government decision's last year to remove the quantitative ceiling of 20,000 tonnes on export of branded consumer packs of up to five kg of edible bran oil will boost exports. The industry is getting queries and exports have already started materialising."
Sharma said he expects that both factors, coupled with increase in awareness of the health benefits of rice bran oil among the masses, will provide a boost to the industry. With installed capacity of 90,000 tonnes per annum, Ricela Health Foods Limited (formerly known as A P Solvex Limited) is the world's largest producer of rice bran oil. Sharma is also president of the International Association of Rice Bran Oil.
A senior official of Ahmedabad based-Vimal Oil & Foods Ltd, which launched their brand a year ago, added, "The need is to create awareness among the masses about the health benefits of the oil, which is low at the moment. Once the public at large comes to know of the benefits, acceptability will witness a quantum jump."
To maintain the momentum of demand as the industry's production capacity is ramped up by 50,000 tonnes annually, rice bran oil associations are deploying health awareness campaigns. Producers feel that rice bran oil, which contains oryzanol and has numerous health benefits, has huge potential in the Indian market as well.
Describing the benefits, Sharma added, "The oil is a rich source of an antioxidant named gamma oryzanol, as well as a notable amount of Vitamin E, which enhances the efficiency of the cholesterol toleration process and helps maintain a healthy heart. Rice bran oil consists of 47 per cent mono-saturated fats, 33 per cent poly-saturated fats and 20 per cent saturated fats. This fat composition is extremely close to the recommendation of the American Heart Association on edible oils."
India produces nine million tonnes of rice bran, of which around five million tonnes is processed into oil, and the rest is used as cattle feed. Paddy production in the country increased from 125 million tonnes in 2004-05 to 160 million tonnes in 2013-14 (provisional).