Value Addition to Oilseeds for Higher Production and Exports

Dr. G. Nagaraj, T. Damodaram
Dr. G. Nagaraj, T. Damodaram
India also has some tree oil sources like coconut, olive, and palm.
India also has some tree oil sources like coconut, olive, and palm.

Oilseeds are a prized commodity since civilizations began. The early settlers understood their importance as food, fodder, fertilizer, and even medicine for humans and animals.  Though they were never served as a staple food, they had their prime importance as taste enhancers and nutritious snack food. Their importance as fodder to milch animals to obtain more milk was recognized a long time back. Apart from identifying the products, namely, oilseeds, oil, and deoiled cake, the value of the other plant parts like leaves, stems, roots, and flowers, etc. have also been evaluated and utilized.

Utility of oleaginous material:

India has a wide variety of oilseeds. It has presently nine cultivated oilseeds. They are grown in different seasons both as rainfed and irrigated crops. Sesame is the oldest oilseed crop of India known to us since the Vedic ages. The word taila meaning the oil has been derived from the Sanskrit name of sesame, Til. The other traditional crops of India are mustard/rapeseed, niger, castor, linseed, and safflower. Crops like groundnut, soybean, and sunflower have been introduced to India over the past four or five centuries. Except for the oils derived from castor and linseed, the other seven oilseeds give us edible oils.

Sesame and groundnut have wide-ranging applications. They are edible in their raw state. Simple processing like boiling and roasting makes them more palatable. A lot of edible products are made from these two oilseeds as chikkis (a combination of jaggery/sugar either singly or in combination with other dry nuts), chutneys, snacks, and fried foods.  Niger and dehulled sunflower kernels also have similar applications.   Rapeseed also is a compulsory part of many Indian savory preparations to enhance the taste. Rapeseed/mustard flour is an essential ingredient of pickles. Linseed is also edible, especially as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, and hence is considered a nutraceutical. Edible-grade oil cakes are highly protein rich (protein content ranging from 30-50%) and hence have utility in energy-rich foods biscuits etc. Protein isolates and protein concentrates can be prepared from edible-grade oil cakes. Non-edible cakes can serve as either animal feed or as organic manure.

India also has some tree oil sources like coconut, olive, and palm. Many forest-based trees to name, like neem, karanj, jatropha, mahua, kokum, Melia, sal, kokum, Simarouba, etc have a lot of potentials to supply not only edible oil but also industrial as well as medicinal oil and biodiesel. Collection and utilization of forest-based tree oilseeds should be carried out to obtain suitable benefits from them. Neem and karanj oils have wide-ranging applications in agriculture as pest control agents and soil fertility builders apart from their utility in medicine. Karanj and jatropha oils have good potential as biodiesel sources.

Import of edible oils:

In spite of a wide variety of vegetable oil sources, India is deficient with respect to the production of edible oils and their supply. The domestic consumption of edible oils is around 250 lakh tonnes, while the domestic production is only 111.6 lakh tonnes. The gap between the demand and supply of edible oils is about 56 percent and is met through imports.  The country's edible oils import bill stands at Rs 83,005 crore during 2021 against Rs 59,543 crore a year ago.   It is imperative that the country should reduce imports of large quantities of oils especially, palm oil, a saturated oil (unfriendly to a healthy heart). Simultaneously, increased indigenous production of oilseeds should be a major priority.

The simplest way to encourage indigenous production of oilseeds is to immediately reduce imports of palm oil. This will give a boost to oilseed production in the country. Reduced imports will naturally increase the prices of oils in the country, which will not be palatable to the consumers and the policymakers in the Government.  The other alternative is to add value to the indigenous oilseeds. Value-added products can fetch us 5-10 times higher prices. This will make the oilseeds more remunerative and more competitive in Indian and global markets.

Export value of oilseeds and their products:

The positive strength of the oilseeds in India is that we export a large number of oilseeds, oils, oil meals, and various oil-fried and preserved foods. India exports oilseeds worth Rs.9600 crores. We export 36.8 lakh tonnes of oil meal worth  Rs. 8015 crores. Castor oil, its products, and other oil exports earn us around Rs.14,710 crores. The earnings from other value-added oil and oilseed products are around 206 crores. All these total up to Rs. 32,531 crores.   Value addition naturally will increase the value with higher export earnings.  Hence manufacture of value-added oilseed products need thorough encouragement.

Further, India has a lot of earnings from products like ready-to-eat food products, pickles, potato chips, etc. Edible oil is an essential component in the preparation of these items. The oil content of these products may range anywhere from 30-50% and even above. Thus, indirectly also oils are earning us huge amounts of foreign exchange. India exports oil-fried ready-to-eat food products worth Rs.16,800 crores.  Pickles export earn us Rs.248 crores while potato chips earn us Rs. 24 crores. These exports total up to around Rs. 17100 crores. Edible-grade oil cakes also form part of some oil-fried snack foods. All these items thus can positively influence oilseed cultivation.

At present, we are exporting direct products like seed, oil, or oil cakes. Value-added products like aviation lubricants (HCO, DCO, etc.), 12 HAS, and Nylon-11 manufactured from castor oil will fetch us value worth 100 times or even more. Products like cosmetics, paints, varnishes, and nutraceuticals (omega-3 fatty acid sources) also can fetch us values worth 5 to 20 times, etc. Sesame, groundnut, niger, rapeseed, sunflower kernels, linseed, soybean, and their edible products have very high potential in earning us higher levels of foreign exchange. However, proper labeling and a specific highlight of the nutritional value like lack of allergies, high protein, lower glycemic index, etc. will help us fetch higher prices.

Oil cakes - profitable utilization:

Oil cakes are richer in protein and hence play an important role in relieving malnutrition. Sesame, groundnut, and soybean cakes are richer in protein ranging from 40-60%.  Hygienically processed flours can be used for edible purposes. Their use in the preparation of multipurpose flours and biscuits etc will enhance their value. Other cakes from rapeseed, sunflower, safflower, niger, and linseed, being richer in fiber content, can go as poultry, cattle, and fish feed. Castor cake and other non-edible (unhygienic) cakes can serve as organic manure and will help us in increasing the yields of crop plants. 

Keeping these aspects in view, concerted efforts should be made to increase the export of value-added products of oilseeds and reduce the imports of oil selectively. Value addition to oilseeds will certainly spur oilseed cultivation/production in the country. Awareness to reduce the consumption of saturated oils to improve the health of our population will simultaneously reduce the requirement for oil and thus imports. Value addition to oilseeds needs thorough encouragement to enhance oilseed production and earn larger foreign exchange.

(G Nagaraj is a former Principal Scientist & Head (CP) and T Damodaram is a former Senior Documentation-cum-Information Officer, ICAR-Indian Institute of Oilseeds Research, Hyderabad. E-Mail: guttarla@hotmail.com and tekuru.damodaram@gmail.com)

Export and Import Value of Oilseed Products


Export Value Rs. Cr.

Import Value Rs. Cr.



















 Source: Compiled from Import Export Data bank of DGCI&S, GoI

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