The oil consumption pattern of India in general and Gujarat in particular have drastically changed over the last decade as consumers shift their preferences on the back of unavailability of edible oils of choice and price volatility, an expert said.

With increased availability of cottonseed oil and palmolein, Gujarat has gradually shifted to these oils as groundnut oil availability dips due to lower groundnut crushing, according to Raju Choksi, Vice-President (Agro-Commodities), Anil Nutrients, a subsidiary of the Rs 650 crore agro and food processor Anil Ltd.

Historically, groundnut oil has been the preferred edible oil for Gujarati people, but this is changing as groundnut crushing dips in the state due to lower availability of groundnut kernels, he told Business Line here.

Compared to rest of the country, Gujarat has the highest per capita edible oil consumption, at about 20 kg per capita.

“Usage of groundnut kernels has changed over the last few years. Kernels are now exported in large quantities due to robust demand and attractive prices in the international markets. Direct consumption of kernels in domestic market is rising rapidly.

Both these factors have led to diminished availability of kernels for oil crushing industry leading to lower supply and higher groundnut oil prices, he said.

Annual consumption of edible oil in Gujarat is around 8-9 lakh tonnes, with cottonseed and palmolein oil having a major share of the market now, while groundnut now has around 15-18% share. Apart from availability, price is also an important factor, as cottonseed oil is about 30-40% cheaper than groundnut oil, Mr Choksi added.

The total area under oilseed cultivation in India is estimated to increase from 22 lakh hectare in 2001-02 to 30 lakh hectare in 2015-16, while average yield is likely to increase from 90 kg per ha to 100 kg per ha during the period. The total oilseed production is likely to increase to 50 lakh metric tons, according to the May 2012 report of the Asso-Com Grain Conference.

With an increase of 10 lakh ha in cultivated area, there will be an increase of only 2.9 lakh tons of oil supply. This would mean the domestic oil availability by 2015-16 will increase only by about 12.5 lakh tonnes, to 85 lakh tonnes, as against the projected consumption of 210 lakh tonnes.

The per capita consumption of edible oil in India is at 12.7 kg. Low consuming states in central and east India, at 7 to 9 kg per head, are likely to catch up with western and northern Indians who consume 15-16 kg per capita. The import of India may, therefore, phenomenally rise to 125 lakh tons per annum, thus further shifting consumption patterns.

(This article was published on November 6, 2012)
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