Agri Business

Higher incomes, health concerns make sunflower oil flavour of season

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on January 08, 2018

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Health benefits, higher disposable income key drivers for rise in consumption

Driven by higher disposable incomes and increased health consciousness, edible oil consumers in India are increasingly turning towards sunflower oil, which has witnessed an increase in consumption by about five-fold rise over the past 15 years.

Data compiled by the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA) noted a steady rise in sunflower oil imports, from 973,000 tonnes in 2012-13 to 1,516,000 tonnes in 2015-16.

A game-changer

“Sunflower oil is becoming a game-changer for the vegetable oil sector in India. There is a steady growth in consumption supported by improved availability in international markets and competitive pricing with regard to soyabean oil. In 2016-17, sunflower oil imports may touch a record 2 million tonnes,” said Atul Chaturvedi, President, SEA.

Changing pattern

Chaturvedi also highlighted the changing consumption pattern of Indian edible oil consumers, who switched from groundnut oil long ago to alternative oils such as soyabean oil, rapeseed/mustard oil and palm oil.

In 2001-02, groundnut oil consumption stood at 1,216,000 tonnes, and this fell to a meagre 239,000 tonnes by 2015-16. As against this, the consumption of sunflower oil increased by nearly five times from 309,000 tonnes to 1,541,000 tonnes.

Even as the soft oil in the vegetable oil complex gets attention, India continues to depend on imports. In the total vegoil imports of 14.57 million tonnes (2015-16), sunflower oil stood third with over 10 per cent (1.5 million tonnes) share. Palm oil and soyabean oil continue to be the top two imported vegoils with an import quantity of 8.44 million tonnes and 4.23 million tonnes, respectively.

“Increasing import dependence for vegoils is creating an unfavourable scenario for India’s food security. For so long, we have pampered our consumers at the cost of poor farmers. Our import duties have been kept very low for edible oils, which has ensured our dependence on imports keeps growing,” said Chaturvedi, a change in the policy to favour farmers as opposed to consumers.

Govind G Patel, an industry veteran from Rajkot, said the sunflower oil may continue to hold its third slot in overall vegoil consumption preferences after palm and soyabean due to the price differential. The import price (CIF at Indian ports) of crude palm oil hovered at $670 per tonne, while crude soyabean oil was at $813 and crude sunflower oil traded at $824 in August.

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Published on October 05, 2017
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