Milk and bovine stock economy in India seems to be closely linked with the production of oilseeds in Indian agriculture. Oilseeds, on the one (hand, provide feed-concentrates which happen to be the critical element in the health and productivity of bovine stock. On the other hand edible oils', which along with cereals and pulses constitute an indispensible component of the predominantly vegetarian Indian diet, also offer a widely accepted substitute for ghee, traditionally the most important of milk products. Indian agriculture seems to have evolved, and maintained till recently, a balance between the production of various cereals, pulses and oilseeds. There was, it seems; at least an attempt to match agricultural production with the desirable balance of various elements in the Indian diet, and at the same -time to meet the essential requirements of the bovine stock. However, the introduction of modern agricultural practices in the mid-sixties, which led to the so-called green revolution, seriously disrupted -these traditional tendencies of matching production with the varied requirements of men and their animals. As is well known. The new practices emphasized the production of only cereals, and amongst them, for mainly wheat. . We have seen earlier that this lopsided emphasis .directly led to stagnation and decline in the production of pulses, severely depleting average Indian diet of its protein constituents, a loss that could not have been made up by the modern attempts at popularizing poultry and the like (1). We shall see below that the modern practices in agriculture also had an adverse impact on the production of oilseeds, thereby reducing the availability of fats in Indian diets, and limiting the possibilities of enhancing, production of milk in the country.

3.1. Decline in the Production of Oilseeds:

To comprehend the impact of the introduction of modern agricultural practices on the production of oilseeds, we can begin with a look at the rates of growth of oilseeds I and some other major crops for periods preceding and following these changes in agriculture. In Table 13 below we have displayed the compound rates of growth in production, area and yield of oil seeds relative to food grains and some other crops for the periods 1949-50 to 1964-55 and 1967-68 to 1980-81 (17). The strategy to introduce modern agricultural techniques in India in a big way was inaugurated in 1966-67. The period 1967-68 to 1980-81, therefore refers to :the modern phase of Indian agriculture and the period 1949-50 to 1964-65 to the pre-modern phase. The two intervening years, 1965-66 and 1966-67 were especially bad drought years, and it is usual to exclude these two years while comparing the two phases of Indian agriculture.

TABLE - 13

Compound Rates of Growth of Oilseeds relative to Food grains and other Crops (1949 to 1964-65 & 1967-68 to 1980-81: Units Percent per annum)

  Production Area Yield
Crops Rate
of Growth
All Crops 3.19 2.37 1.55 0.52 1.60 1.45
Foodgrains 2.98 2.39 1.34 0.35 1.61 1.74
Oil Seeds 3.20 1.04 2.55 0.27 0.64 0.76
Pulses 1.62 -0.28 1.87 0.44 -0.24 -0.56

Looking for the present at the rate of growth of production alone in Table 13, we find that during the pre-modernisation period 1949-50 to 1964-65, the production of oilseeds rose at a rate of 3,20 per cent per annum, which was slightly better than the rate of growth in the production of food grains, and equal to the rate of growth of overall agricultural production 1n the country. In the modern period, 1967-68 to 1980-81, growth 1n production of all crops seems to slacken. However, oilseeds suffer a decline which Is much sharper than the decline in the growth of food grains or in the total agricultural production. Thus while in the pre-modern period, production of oilseeds grew at a rate faster than that of food grains, in the modern phase the rate of growth of the former at 1.04 percent per annum, is not even half the rate of the latter at 2.39 percent per annum.

Thus it seems that while the introduction of modern techniques offered no help in increasing the growth potential of Indian agriculture as a whole, yet it disrupted the traditional patterns of production. Share of oilseeds, and pulses, as also of many of the less favored cereals, in the total agricultural production of the country went down. Pulses, in fact, suffered an absolute decline in their production, while the rate of growth of oilseeds production in the post 65 period became significantly lower, less than 1 /3rd of their growth rate in the 1949-65 period. It is not always easy to discern such trends in the year to year absolute production data of various' crops, because of the wide fluctuations that take place in their production. However, in Table 14 below we have displayed the triennial averages for the production of oilseeds, food grains and pulses (for every fifth year between 1950-51 and 1980-81 (18). In a later table (Table 16) we shall display oilseeds production data over the same period with a different averaging procedure.

It can be seen from Table 14 that in 1963-64 the relative production of oilseeds, total food grains and pulses was almost the same as in 1950-51. After that period, however, production of pulses becomes stagnant while growth in oilseeds starts falling behind that in food grains. Looking again at Table 13 we find that in the pre-modern period,1 1949-65, while much of the growth, in production of food grains arises from improvements in yield per hectare, and while overall increase in agricultural, production of the country during this period can be attributed almost equally to increases in area under crops and increases in productivity per unit area, yet growth in production of oilseeds takes place predominantly as a result of growth in area under oilseeds. As a matter of fact growth in productivity of oilseeds remains low, much less than 1 percent per annum in pre-modern as well as the modern phase. The high rate of growth in production of oilseeds in the pre-modern phase then arises as a result of the rapid growth of area under oilseeds in this period. The rate of growth of area under oilseeds during 1949-65 was almost twice as high as that of area under food grains.

TABLE - 14

Production of Major Oilseeds Relative to Food grains and Pulses*

Year Oilseeds
(Lakh tons)
All Foodgrains
(Million tons)
(Million tons)
51.4 52.58 8.33
1955-56 61.6 68.23 10.88
1960-61 69.5 80.47 12.09
1963-64** 76.7 83.38 11.34
1970-71 85.8 104.36 11.53
1975-76 87.5 110.77 11.47
All Figures, refer to triennial averages with the year indicated as the mid year.
1963-64 instead of 1965-66 has been chosen to avoid including the two abnormal years 1965-66 and 1966-67 in the average.

Incidentally, during this period area under pulses also rose at a rate faster than that of the area under food-grains as a whole, though yield per hectare of pulses declined slightly even during this period.

The phenomenon of low rate of growth in productivity of land under oilseeds gets corroborated when we look at changes in irrigated area under oilseeds over the years - see Table 15 (19). Irrigation is one of the main resources that help in enhancing productivity of land. It can be seen from Table 15 that increases in irrigated area brought under foodgrains form a substantial fraction of the increases in total area under foodgrains. It is as if all additional area bought under foodgrains, at least after 1955-56, were irrigated. Irrigated area brought under oilseeds on the other hand rises rather slowly, and it seems much of the additional area brought under oilseeds, like the area already under oilseeds during 1950-70 period, remains dry. Only after mid-seventies does one see a significant increase in the percentage of irrigated area compared to the total area under oilseeds.

From the slow increase in irrigated area under oilseeds and rather low rate of growth in productivity of oilseeds even during the 1949-65 period, it appears that relatively better lands and important productive resources like irrigation were even then preferentially assigned to cereal crops. Total production of oilseeds and pulses, however, was kept up by bringing proportionately larger, though less productive, area under these crops. The balance in the relative production of cereals, pulses, and oilseeds that we notice in the pre-modern phase was therefore not the result of .some unthinking custom following which, of all new areas brought under cultivation, proportionately unvarying amounts were put under different crops. Maintaining the traditional balance required, on the other hand, delicate adjustments in the allocation of different types of land and other productive resources to different crops.

After mid-sixties there was perhaps not much more land available that could be brought under the plough without extraordinary' effort. Looking at the performance of Indian agriculture in the first fifteen years after independence, however, there seems little doubt that even after additional cultivable land became scarce, the traditionally valued productive resources like labour, animal power, animal manure, and water would have been appropriately raised and allocated to not-only maintain the rising trend in overall agricultural production, but also tomaintain a balance in the production of different crops. After all, even inspite of ho modernising innovations taking place in the first fifteen year period, the yield of land per unit area in India did keep rising at a rate of 1-60 percent per annum.

During the mid-sixties however, the new technology for cereal production was introduced in India. This required new type of resources and new agricultural practices. Traditional resources as

TABLE - 15

Irrigated Area under Oilseeds and Foodgrains (1950-51 to 1980-81) Units: Million Hectares

Crops year 50-51 55-56 60-61 65-66 70-71 75-76 80-81
1. Total Area 101.19 111.32 115.56 114.89 124.91 128.28 126.67
2. Irrigated
18.32 20.62 22.06 24.03 30.12 34.09 37.61
3. Percentage
x 100
18.1 18.5 19.1 20.9 24.1 26.6 29.7
1. Total Area 10.97 11.93 12.78 14.19 14.72 15.02 15.62
2. Irrigated
(a) 0.29 0.42 0.53 1.09 1.20 2.28
3. Percentage
Irrigated (2/1)  
x 100
(a) 2.4 3.3 3.7 7.4 8.0 14.6
(a) Not available. Irrigated area under oilseeds counted with other crops.

well as traditional knowledge of soil, seasons and crops thereby got de-emphasized. The new resources and knowledge naturally got concentrated in the few areas and on the few crops that responded to the new technology. Production and productivity of these few crops in their limited areas increased substantially. But growth in overall production and productivity of land in India started slowing down, as is clear from Table 13 (for further details of this aspect see Ref.1). Oilseeds were one of the major crops that suffered a decline in growth as a result. As can be seen from Table 16 below, area under oilseeds almost stopped growing after the end of the Third Plan period (1961-66) and increases in their production became rather slow (20). This of course meant less fat in the average Indian diet. In addition it also meant decreased capability to maintain bovine stock which constituted one of the most important productive resources in traditional agriculture. As we have noticed earlier (Table 1) growth in bovine stock also slackened noticeably after the mid-sixties. Incidentally, from Table 16 it seems that oilseeds registered the highest growth during the Second Plan period (1956-61), and that also happens to be the period during which bovine population grew most rapidly.

3.2. Modern Strategies for Enhancing Availability of Vegetable Oils: The deceleration in the production of oilseeds and- vegetable oi1s seems to have become a matter of major concern for the development planners in the recent past. Various strategies are being evolved for quickly and dramatically increasing the availability of vegetable oils in the country. Attempts made so far have been mainly in three

TABLE – 16

Total Area and Production of Major Oilseeds: Plan Averages*

Plans Period   I II III Annual IV V
1950-51 1951-56 1956-61 1961-66 1966-69 1969-74 1980-81
10.73 11 .69 13.19 15.08 15.04 15.29 15.39
51.58 54.53 67.10 73.53 71.91 82.90 89.25
* Major oilseeds include Groundnut, Rapeseed-Mustard, Sesamum, Linseed and Castor

directions. One, to popularize cultivation of exotic non-conventional oilseed crops. Two, to encourage the extraction of residual oils in conventionally expressed oilcakes through industrial . solvent extraction processes, and also to use the same processes for obtaining oil from certain agricultural residues like rice-bran, and some forest products like salseed and mahua. Three, to import cheap vegetable oils, like soyabean oil etc., from the international market on a large scale. Future strategies are also likely to explore- possibilities in the same directions. Efforts along these lines have indeed helped in increasing the availability of oils that are edible, though in India they are popularly considered unpalatable. However, as we shall see below,, all of these strategies are such that these could not have helped in. increasing the nutrition level of the average milch or draught animal in India. We shall consider the developments that have taken place along each of these three directions, and their impact, separately.

a) Cultivation of Non-Conventional Oilseeds:

Oilseed crops conventional grown in India are mainly five: Groundnut, Rapeseed-Mustard, Sesamum, Linseed and Castor. Of these the first three, along with Coconut, a plantation crop, form the major source of edible oils in the country. Linseed oil is also edible though it finds many industrial uses, especially in the paints and varnish industry. Castor oil has been traditionally considered important medicinal oil and an excellent feedstock for soap making. It seems to be becoming an important industrial material too,, particularly as a lubricant. Perhaps that is the reason why castor seed production, though not large compared to the total production of major oilseeds, has started showing a sudden upward trend during the last few years. Between 1980-81 and 1983-84 castor production seems to have jumped from 2.04 lakh tons to 4.07 lakh tons, and area under castor during the same period has gone up from 4.97 lakh hectares in 1980-81 to 6.37 lakh hectares in 1983-84.

In Table 17 below we have displayed figures for the average production of different oilseeds during the five-year plan periods (21). It can be seen from Table 17 that, except for the recent spurt in castor production noticed above, the relative share of different oilseed crops in the total production of five major oilseeds has not changed much since1950s. Of these groundnut remains the most significant oilseed crop accounting for' more than 65% of the total production of the five major oilseeds in 1980s as in 1950s. Rapeseed-mustard, the second most important oilseed crop, has improved its share slightly, from about . 15% in the fifties to around 20% in the sixties. This increase in the relative production of rapeseed-mustard seems to have been at the cost of sesamum, whose share An the total production of these five "major oilseeds, has declined from about 9% to about 5%.

TABLE - 17

Cropwise Break up of production of Major Oilseeds: Plan Averages Units: Lakh tonnes per year. Figures in percentage of the total production of five major Oilseeds

  I II III Annual IV V  
50-51 51-56 56-61 61-66 66-69 69-74 74-79 79-84
Groundnut 34.81
Sesamum 4.45
Linseed 3.67
Castor 1.03
Total 51.58
nuts) year
3282 3976 4608 4851 5333 5981 5753  

Decrease in the relative production of sesamum is perhaps because of its relatively low productivity, though it has increased from about 200 kg/ha in fifties to about 300 kg/hectare in the eighties. Yet, this decrease in the share of sesamum in the production of major oilseeds is unfortunate because sesamum oil by conventional wisdom is considered the most nutritious and health promoting of all edible oils. Even in the Ayurvedic canonical texts sesamum oil is stated to be the best of all edible oils. In fact the Sanskrit word for oil, tail urn, is derived from the Sanskrit name of sesamum, til. Sesamum oil therefore is the oil, tailum, and other oils get the same generic name because of the similarity of their properties to thoseof the sesamum oil (see Susruta Samhita (i) 45.112 and 130).
One of the major components of modern strategies for enhancing availability of oils in the country is to introduce newer oilseed

TABLE – 18

Production Trends in Non-conventional Edible oilseeds

Crop Area in lakh hectares Production in lakh tons
  80-81 81-82 82-83 83-84 80-81 81-82 82-83 83-84
Safflower 7.20 7.61 7.82 8.00 3.35 4.24 3.96 4,69
Sunflower 1.19 2.27 4.62 6.67 0.66 1.31 2.30 2.72
Soyabean 3.92 4.77 7.70 8.14 1.89 3.52 4.91 5.83
Total 12.31 14.65. 20.14 22.81 5.90 9.07 11.17 13.24

crops, often of foreign origin, in the agriculture of India. The crops currently being popularised are: safflower, sunflower and soyabean, mainly the last. In Table 18 below we have shown the area that has been brought under these non-conventional oilseed crops since 1980-81, and their production during these years (22). It can be seen from the Table that in the four years between 1980-81 and 1983-84 total area under these crops has increased almost two-fold and their total production has risen even more sharply from 5.90 lakh tons in 1980-61 to 13.24 lakh tons in 1983-84. Area under these oilseeds and their production in 1983-84 already forms a significant proportion, about 15%, of the/total area under and production of the five major conventional oilseeds of the country. And this is a rising trend.

From the performance of non-conventional oilseed crops during these four years, it does not seem that these crops as of now have any advantage in terms of yield per hectare over the conventional oilseed crops. As can belseen from Table 19, during the four years between 1980-81 and 1983-84 yield of groundnut has been consistently higher than that of soyabean, and safflower-sunflower have consistently produced lower yields than those of rapeseed-mustard (22).

The oil content of the non-conventional oilseeds also does not seem to be any better than that of the conventional seeds. In Table 20 we have collected percentage oil content, weight by weight, of some of the important conventional and nonconventional oil-bearing vegetable materials (23).

It jean be seen that while the oil content of safflower and sunflower is roughly the same as that of other oil bearing seeds like rapeseed-mustard or sesamum, oil content of soyabean is rather low. This latter is supposed to have a high protein content, but even that is perhaps not much better than that of groundnut which is rich in both oil and proteins..

TABLE - 19

Relative Yields of some Conventional and Non-conventional Edible Oi1seed Crops

Crops Year Yield in kgms per hectare
1980-81 1981-82 1982-83 1983-84


























The non-conventional oilseeds thus do not seem to have any special advantage over the conventional oilseeds in terms of their yields or oil contents. However there is one important difference. The technology and uses of conventional oils are well known, and it seems that much of the conventional oils produced get consumed without any /industrial processing, and the rich oilcakes obtained from small scale qhanis and expellers find their way into the diets of the local livestock. The technology of the non-conventional oilseeds, especially of soyabean, the most vigrously promoted of the non-conventional oilseeds, though not very complicated, is unfamiliar. Also the non-conventional oils, and again soyabean oil in particular, do not become acceptable in the Indian market without multiple refining. Because of these constraints, the non-conventional oilseeds, unlike the conventional ones, largely enter the industrial system and from there, the urban market. From what we have been repeatedly noticing, the fact that an agricultural product has to be industrially processed and commercially marketed is itself considered an important advantage in favour of that product. That is perhaps why these non-conventional oilseeds are so zealously being popularised.

This phenomenon however has a major disadvantage, at least for the health and productivity of the average milch or draught animal. Once an oilbearing crop enters the centralised industrial system, it becomes uneconomic to simply return its by-products, the oilcakes, to the field for livestock consumption. It becomes much more tempting,

Oil Content of Some Important Oilseeds

Oilseed Percentage of oil w/w Oilseed Percentage of oil w/w
Groundnut (Kernel) 40-44 Soyabean 18.7-21
Rapeseed-Mustard 31-33 Safflower 25-30
Sesamum Seed 41-43 Sunflower 37-40.
Linseed 31-33 Niger Seed 35
Castor Seed 40-42 Copra 62-68

economically speaking, to add value to these by-products by processing them into compound feeds, which then happen to be too expensive to be consumed by the average animal in the field, and thus become available, to be either exported or fed to the exotic elite herds. From the economic industrial viewpoint, however, it is even better if the oilcakes can be completely diverted from livestock consumption and converted into sophisticated 'protein-rich' products for metropolitan human consumers. The cycle can then be completed by feeding good whole grains to special animals in industrial feedlots as is already being done in some parts of the world. Even this expensive feeding of special herds is not likely to help in expanding total production of milk in this country, as we have seen earlier (section. 2.7), though these herds may make a little more milk available in the urban markets.

b) Solvent Extraction of Oilcakes and Some Other Agricultural and forest products with Low Oil Content:

Oil is generally obtained by pressing oilseeds and other oil bearing matter in traditional ghahis or the more modern though fairly small scale expellers. Some of the oil is left behind in the cake in this process, and the expeller cake usually contains up to 10 percent, weight by weight, of oil. In the normal course this is not really a waste, as the cake is fed to the livestock and provides probably the only source of fats in the animal diets. It is however possible to extract the residual oil from oilcakes by dissolving the oil in some organic solvent and then removing the solvent from the oil by distillation. If all the oilcake produced in the country could be processed in this fashion, the amount of oil recovered may form a significant proportion of the total amount of vegetable oils available. But it should be remembered that every kilogram of oil thus extracted means a kilogram of oil taken out of the livestock feeds, which are in any case not very rich. Also this type of processing necessarily involves concentrating the cake in industrial locations.- And as we have argued earlier, once the oilcake reaches the big industrial system it is not likely to become available again for feeding to the average animal, even after the oil-content has been removed from it.
The solvent extraction process can also be used for' extracting oil from some agricultural wastes that have small quantities of vegetable oils in them; One such agricultural by-product is rice-bran in India with rice production nearing 60 million tons, there is probably million tons of rice-bran available annually. Oil content of rice-bran is generally around 15%, and thus the available bran bears about 8 lakh tons of oil which is, of course, a significant amount. Normally the bran along with its oil content is fed to the animals. Solvent extraction of rice-bran however seems to be becoming quite popular, and we can expect the average livestock to lose both the bran and the oil in the process. Finally, some oilbearing forest products, like mahua and salseeds, which are normally collected by the forest dwelling adivasis, probably for their own uses, are now moving into the solvent extraction industry for commercial production of oil.

Before we look at the amount of different types of oils actually produced in the solvent extraction industry during the last few years, it is instructive to keep in mind the total 'production of oils from the important oilseeds in the country. In Table 21 below we have displayed these production figures over a period of about twenty years (20). From the Table it seems that total production of oil from the five, major oilseeds has been in the range of 25 to 30 lakh tons since the seventies. About 10% of this amount has consisted of non-edible linseed and castor seed oils. In addition to the oils from the five major oilseeds, cotton seed oil and rice-bran oil have become significant contributors to the pool of vegetable oils since the beginning of the seventies and their share seems to be rapidly rising. Incidentally cotton seed when not expressed for its oil is fed whole to agricultural livestock. And the oil extracted is not edible without hydrogenation. To complete the picture it may be remarked that the contribution of non-conventional oils, like sunflower, safflower, soyabean, and niger etc., remains insignificant individually. However, together they add up to about 2 lakh tons, and perhaps a quarter of that amount comes from soyabean oil.

Now we are ready to look at the contribution made by solvent-extracted oils to the oil pool. In Table 22 below we have listed the amount of solvent-extracted oils produced from different sources during a few years in the recent past (25). Looking at the production figure for the eighties it seems that the total production of solvent-extracted oils, at around 3 lakh tons these days, forms a significant proportion about 10%, of the .indigenous vegetable o11 pool. A large part of the total production of solvent-extracted oils comes from, rice-bran. Rice-bran oil seems to constitute some 40% of the total solvent-extracted oils. Cottonseed oil Is another major contributor to the solvent-extracted I oil production. Rice-bran ''and cottonseed together account for more than half of the total oils produced in this process. It should be noticed that both of these are in the .normal course part of livestock feeds, and both of these necessarily enter the industrial system if their oil is at all to "be extracted. Rice-bran oil cannot be extracted without solvent extraction and cottonseed oil is not fit for human consumption without hydrogenation.

Amongst the edible oilseeds soyabean seems to be entering the solvent-extraction system in a big way. Its contribution of' about 30 thousand

TABLE - 21

Production of Major Vegetable Oils (Units: Thousand tons)

0ils Year 1960-61 1970-71 1975-76 1980-81
Groundnut 1094 1413 1516 1139
Rapeseed- Mustard 417 627 616 687
Sesamum 151 175 136 na
Linseed 149 141 180 na
Castor 38 47 50 na
Coconut 179 190 181 174
Total 2046 2593 2674 ....
Cotton Seed not available 100 175 269
Rice-brant not available 21 36 139

tons, as of 1981, constitutes only 10% of the total solvent-extracted oils. However, considering that the total production of soyabean oil is only about half a lakh ton, and the production of soyabean seeds themselves is not much beyond 5 lakhs tons even in 1983-84, thirty thousand tons of solvent-extracted soyabean oil seems a big figure. What it implies is that almost all of soyabean cake enters the industrial system for solvent extraction, and perhaps further processing. Knowing that soyabean is basically an industrial crop this is perhaps not surprising. Solvent-extraction of oil from the-oilcakes of the five major oilseed crops accounts for about a quarter of the total production of solvent-extracted oils. However in terms of the total production of these oilseeds, and consequently their oilcakes, the amount of oil extracted does not seem to be large. It seems that solvent-extracted oil for each of these seeds constitutes only a few percent, always .less than five percent of the conventional production of oil from that particular seed. And, so far at least, not more than 10% of the oilcakes produced from these seeds seem to be entering the solvent extraction system. Nevertheless, even this 10% means, that much less oil and feed concentrates for average livestock consumption. -Of the forest produce salseed seems to be the major source of solvent-extracted oils. Besides salseed, mahua, neem and mango kernel are the other main products that are being taken up for solvent extraction. Total oil produced from these sources adds upto about thirty thousand tons, consitituting about 10% of the total solvent-extracted oils. Solvent extraction industry thus takes away about 10% of the edible oil cakes of the major oil seeds, almost all the soyabean cake, about 2 lakh tons of cottonseed cake, and about a million tons of rice-bran, (taking the solvent-extracted oil to be 10% of the bran or the cake), from the livestock feeds. With these feeds and some forest produce, the industry produces some three lakh tons of vegetable oils, of doubtful edible quality. Their edibility becomes suspect not only because of the nature of oils contained in the wide variety of oil-bearing materials used for solvent extraction, but also because of the unedible nature of the organic chemicals used as solvents in the process. At least some of the solvent extracted oils seem to be finding their way into vanaspati ghee, a popular cooking medium made from hydrogenated vegetable oils.

In fact with the strange variety of vegetable oils available to the industry in India today, labels on tins of vanaspati ghee read like recipes for the devil's brew these days. Take a recent example from the tin of a popular brand of vanaspati ghee (label on a tin of Punjab). It reads: 'Made from any or all of the following permissible vegetable oils: Cotton seed, Kardi, Mahua, Maize (Corn), Palm, Palmolein, Imported Rapeseed, Rice-bran, Salseed, Sesame, Sunflower, Water-melon seed, Solvent and Exp(eller) Mustard Oil'. It-is not our

TABLE – 22

Production of Solvent Extracted 011s in India (Unit: Tonnes)

Source 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981
Riice-bran 72 754 92 528 106 252 106 252 119 475
Cotton seed 14 85 15 347 17 343 17 176 24 298
Soyabean 2 419 7 992 16 167 29 551 27 470
Sunflower 2 689 1 320 1 402 2 526 3 858
Safflower 3 051 2 152 2 779 1 330 3 095
Niger seed   338   168   415   67   254
Groundnut 61 872 58 541 60 716 47 302 49 181
Rapeseed - - - - - - - - 9 932
Sesamum 1 576   257 1 001   857 1 543
Linseed 4 611 3 807 7 770   837   732
Castor 1 156   843 1 351 1 896 1 985
Coconut 1 432 3 323 3 984 3 051 2 050
Sal seed 9 954 11 153 15 247 9 654 15 769
Neem 4 970 5 865 4 123 7 503 6 428
Mahua 2 524 4 310 5 100 5 270 6 967
Mango Kernal   320 1 182   178   505 2 520
Micellaneous 2 143 4 823 3 043 4 196 4 015
Total 185 894 213 611 246 871 234 016 279 572

contention that edible oils besides the major conventional oils were not known 1n India. In the category of oils in the chapters on the properties of materials 1n Susruta Samhita, (Susruta Samhita, 1 45: 112-130), one can find listed a baffling range of oils which incidentally also include oils of mahua and mango-kernel. However, from the properties of various oils listed there,. 1t is clear that most of them are medicinal oils, and that not many vegetable oils could be appropriate for long term routine use. Introduction of new oils in the Indian diets without a full understanding of their long term effects seems a particularly rash attempt in a country where there is a tradition of being extremely careful about dietary habits, and where impact on human health of all substances used as food or medicine is so carefully observed and recorded as is done, for .example, in Susruta Samhita in its section on vegetable oils referred to above.

c) Import of Edible Oils: Another strategy adopted for quickly enhancing the availability of oils 1n the country has been to make large scale imports of vegetable oils from the international market. In Table 23 below we have listed the quantities of edible oils imported during the last few years and their value in rupees (26).

It seems that the import of vegetable edible oils rose suddenly in the mid-seventies to a staggeringly high level of more than a million tons and since then annual imports, except for a few exceptions, have always been above -this level. In 1983-84 it seems that 15 lakh tonnes of edible oils have been imported at a cost of 1200 crore rupees. In meeting the edible oil requirements of the country, through imports instead of enhancing indigenous production of oilseeds, we oft course lose valuable feed-concentrates which could have helped in enhancing the milk-production in the 'country and in improving the health of the draught 'animals. The massive imports that are being made however do not seem to be even related to the actual downfall in growth of edible oils that has taken place since the mid-sixties. It is true, as we have seen, that rate of growth in production, of oilseeds in the post-1965 period fell considerably below the rate achieved in the 1949-65 period. However, even during the 1967-80 period production of oilseeds has kept oh rising at a compound rate of slightly above 1% per annum (see Tablej13). Production of edible vegetable oils-.has grown at a rate higher than this 1% because of the contributions arising from non-conventional sources of edible oils, specially cottonseed oil (see Table 21). Therefore it seems that even though per capita availability of indigenous oils has not increased since the mid-sixties it has not gone down to any significant extent either. In fact availability of edible oils and vanaspati has remained steady at around 4kg/year per capita over the period of about one and a half decades between the early sixties and mid-seventies, during which not much edible oils were imported (see. Table 24 above). Large scale imports after this period have artificially hiked up the availability to the level of 6.7 kg per capita per year in 1983-84. These massive imports, often amounting to more than one third the total indigenous production of edible vegetable oils, are not easily understandable,

TABLE - 23

Cost and Tonnage of Edible Oil Imports 1972-84

Year Quantity (tons) Value (Rs. Crores)
1972-73 66 727 17.02
1973-74 184 948 57.78
1974-75 30 091 12.21
1975-76 27 523 15.42
1976-77 179 297 101.04
1977-78 1 282 625 703.32
1978-79 1 075 648 541.72
1979-80 726 754 433.07
1980-81 1 666 361 629.69
1981-82 1 000 000 625.30
1982-83 1 000 000 1000.00
1983-84 1 500 000 1200.00

TABLE - 24

Per. Capita Availability of Edible Oils and Vanaspati (Units: Kg per annum per caput)

Year Edible
Vanaspati Total Year Edible
Vanaspati Total
1955-56 2.5 0.7 3.2 1978-79* 3.8 1.0 4.7
1961-62* 3.2 0.8 3.9 1980-81(P) 3.8 1.2 5;0
1965-66* 3.0 0.8 3.9 1981-82(P) 4.9 1.3 6.2
1970-71* 3.2 1,0 4.2 1982-83(P) 4.4 1.2 5.6
1975-76* 3.3 0.8 4.1
1983-84(P) 5.5 1.2 6.7

* Triennial Average around the year indicated as midyear. Totals in these averaged rows may not agree because of rounding up of figures.

(P) Provisional.

TABLE – 25

Breakup of Imports of Vegetable Oils in India, 1975-79 (Units: Thousand Tons)

Oil 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 % of Total
(Average for
Soyabean 4 151 441 513 535 42.8
Palm 62 26 330 486 396 33.1
Rapeseed 16 37 298 273 138 19.6
Sunflower - - 17 28 17 1.5
Groundnut 1   38 4 - 1.5
Coconut - 2 19 23 16 1.5
Total 83 232 1133 1327 1122 100

especially when they seem to enhance the per capita availability much above the levels that have prevailed here earlier over a long period.

Oils imported consist mainly of oils that are not normally used as edible oils in India. It seems that some 40% of the import is of soyabean oil; palm and palmolein account for another 35% or so of the imported oils - see Table 25 (28). The remaining imports are largely of rapeseed oil. One of the reasons why edible oils are being imported in such large is that soyabean, palm, palmolein and rapeseed oils are cheaply available in the international market. After some processing and packaging these oils can be sold at a much higher price in the Indian market.. The large scale imports of edible oils are therefore perhaps being made purely as a commercial proposition. Or, maybe there is something more to these imports. The oils being imported, as we have seen, are-such that they cannot be acceptable without a lot of processing, to the Indian consumers, excepting perhaps those who have no choice - the indigent unfortunate buyers of these oils at the fair price shops. It seems therefore that an over-whelming proportion of the imported oils is going to the vanaspati

TABLE – 26

Utilization of Raw Oils in _the Manufacture of Vanaspati (Units: Thousand tons)

  1975-76 1976-77 1977-78 1978-79 1979-80 1980-81
Imported 60.0 250.2 481.1 495.6 487.8 690.2
235.8 169.6 37.3 37.1 33.8 40.7
225.8 152.4 84.7       184.1        128.9       665.1
Total 521.6 572.3       603.2       716.8       650.5     796.1

industry. The output of this industry has grown by more than 50% in the five years between 1975-76 and 1980-81, from about 5 lakh tons in '1975-76 to about 8 lakh tons in 1980-81 - see Table 26 (28).' More importantly, however, 88% of the raw oils used during 1975-76 in the industry consisted of indigenous oils, both traditional and norwtradi-tional, while in 1980-81 about 87% of the raw oils used for manufacturing vanaspati ghee happen to be imported non-conventional oils.

In fact it seems that more than half the quantity of imported oils is , ending up in this industry. This is, of course, an excellent way to f sell unpopular oils, because once hydrogenated and converted into the so-called vanaspati ghee their taste and flavour cannot be separately , recognised aha the consumer, especially the one who cannot or does not read the label, has: no way to find out what has gone into the r making of his cooking medium.

Looking at the growth of Vanaspati ghee, and also refined oil industry on the basis of cheap imported oiIs, one wonders whether the strategy , of large scale import of edible oils is actually designed to achieve the same results as were achieved through the import of gifted milk products in the case of Operation Flood. Is it that large scale import of 'cheap-oils are being resorted to so as to indirectly finance ' and induce the growth of oil processing, packaging and marketing t industry, and also to provide the initial supplies of edible oils necessary to help this industry in capturing a "commanding' share of the urban cooking medium market? Later, when the market has been captured and traditional supplies have been checked in their growth, the processing and marketing capacities generated can be supplied with soyabeans and other exotic oilseeds grown in industrial plantations, or alternatively the marketing clout could be used to deliver scarce supplies of traditional oils into the urban market. The fact that NDDB, the agency mainly responsible for planning the OF project has also been active in edible oils field is perhaps not merely accidental.

3.3. Impact of Modern Strategies on the Oil seeds Economy: The total impact of the modernisation programmes on the oi1 seeds economy of the country then has been the following. First during the mid-sixties introduction of modern agricultural techniques designed mainly for a few cereals crops led to a decline in the rate of growth of oilseeds, and consequently of both oils and oilcakes. Later, from the mid-seventies onwards direct modernising intervention in the oilseeds economy has been made through strategies aimed at popularising the cultivation of non-conventional Heeds, encouraging the solvent extraction of residual oils from oilcakes and other agricultural wastes meant for livestock feeding, and flushing the market with imported cheap oils. All these strategies as we have seen have militated against the possibility of enhancing availability of livestock nutrients through the conventional oilseeds agriculture. These strategies have also resulted in the introduction in our country of a variety of edible oils which are not normally acceptable to the Indian consumers. An overwhelming proportion of these indigenously produced and imported non-conventional oils therefore finds its way into the oil processing and marketing industry. There those oils are processed into vegetable ghee and sold to unsuspecting consumers, or are highly refined attractively packaged and aggressively advertised as the sophisticated cooking media that have always been popular with consumers of the developed countries. The remaining quantity of these non-conventional oils is either sold to the indigent consumers through fair price shops,, or is dumped in the market as cheap oils which are then picked up by the not so posh eating establishments. In fact one of the consequences of the availability of this large variety of unfamiliar edible oils of indifferent quality in the Indian market has been that eating out at an average establishment has become an .unpleasant exercise, and often a health hazard.

As a result of these modern strategies urban markets may have been kept well supplied with a variety of processed edible oils. These strategies may also have ensured the availability of more of oilcakes in the industrial system for conversion into compound feeds for the elite herds, or for export. However, such strategies could hot have helped in contributing towards improving, or even maintaining, the health and productivity of an average animal in India, or for that matter, of an average Indian himself.


What can we learn about the phenomenon of modernisation from our experience of modernising milk and oilseeds sectors of Indian economy? Looking at' this experience the first aspect that becomes compellingly noticeable is the failure of modern techniques to maintain the necessary balance in the production of various essential commodoties, the balance which seems to be naturally present in the traditional patterns Of production.. (Thus when modern techniques are sought to be used to enhance production of cereals, production of pulses and oilseeds starts stagnating; or when availability of oils is sought to be improved,the availability of animal feed concentrates does not simultaneously rise; or when productivity of milk animals is enhanced through scientific breeding, the males turn out to be inadequate for the purpose of draught (30).

This failure is perhaps easily understandable. Modern techniques to solve problems of production are after all patterned on the model of .laboratory methods. Arid the essence of the scientific laboratory method, is to isolate the problem from its environment, to eliminate the inter linkages it has [with diverse other factors in nature, and to reduce it to the minimum possible number of controllable parameters. This laboratory strategy is of course immensely successful in compelling nature to perform miracles. Looking at a natural cow as a mere producer] of milk and scientifically breeding it to maximise the milk output of the progeny, one can make cows that will deliver unheard of quantities of milk. What these cows will need to perform their miracle of production is however a different question, which will need to be separately tackled,, probably, by devising economic instruments to deprive the ordinary cows of their normal rations in order to feed the miracle breeds. Such techniques can of course be used to enhance milk output of individual cows, but given the constraints on the total availability of feeds) and fodders, it is doubtful whether such techniques can be used to enhance the aggregate production of milk in the country.

In fact it seems extremely doubtful whether the modern scientific method, of isolating a phenomenon from its environment, can at all be used to design techniques for fulfilling the highly interlinked basic needs of a society, Conventional wisdom attempts to solve such problems by taking them in their entirety, with all their interlin-kages and their complexity. This commonsense method of looking at and solving societal problems within their natural setting, in vivo as it were, may not achieve miraculous results, but it seems to have proved t quite efficient in maintaining a balanced growth of essential commodities in functioning societies. We have seen this happening in Indian agriculture during the first fifteen years after independence.

For agriculture in China there seems to be-evidence to indicate that production there kept on increasing at a rate of 1 per cent per annum over a period of at least six centuries. About half of this growth 1n production could be attributed to increases in the productivity of land, which it seems was improved by arranging more irrigation, provi-ding more manure, and by selecting better yielding seeds and crops from amongst those growing in nature (31).

Traditional sciences, at least the traditional Indian sciences, seem to respect the commonsense method of the world in its integrity. They, it seems, seek to systematize the commonsense, to make it rigorous without destroying its essential unity in its multi-facted ness. Thus for Charaka Samhita, the canonical text of Indian medicine, science is dependent upon what the text calls yukti (32). And yukti by definition Is the intellect that perceives the phenomena brought into existence by the coming together of a multiplicity of causes (33). Again, perceiving the multiplicity of causes of which the phenomena are constituted, yukti is to bring together appropriate actions and materials at the appropriate time and place (34). Thus traditional Indian sciences even in their theoretical formulations define their; task to be a pragmatic understanding of the world in order to act appropriately within the natural complexity of this world. This is exactly what conventional wisdom and commonsense also attempt. Their objective is to find ways of healthily living in the world. They seek neither to dissect it, nor to change it. No miracles can be expected from the sciences and the methods that are modelled on commonsense. These however are perhaps the appropriate methods for finding ways of ensuring balanced production of essential commodoties, and for carrying on the mundane business of living.

Another aspect of modernity that seems to emerge rather strongly, especially from the experience of milk and oilseeds sector of .Indian economy, is the extraordinary-emphasis that it lays on processing and the trading activities, to the exclusion of all activities that help in enhancing production. Part of the reason for this emphasis is perhaps just that trading and processing are rather simple tasks. It is much easier to put up an array of processing plants at various places in the country and arrange to transport large quantities of milk between locations than to develop the milk production potential of the country. The engineering and marketing efforts turn out to be especially simple when much of the designs and strategies, if not the machines and managers themselves, can be imported outright. Helping millions of small farmers owning a cow or two each, in improving the milk yield of their animals on the other hand is a stupendous task for which no readymade solutions are available. The engineering and managerial skills available in the country, and internationally, are perhaps not even suited for this latter task which seems to be more, explicitly social and political. It would have been a different matter if enhancement in the production of milk were to be achieved not through) the cooperation of millions of small farmers but through the raising of special herds in huge industrially managed farms. The available managerial and engineering skills would have then come into their own, and the production task then would have acquired the glamour and the prestige that for the present seems to be associated with tradingland processing.' It would have also made manipulating production upwards or downwards easier. Unfortunately perhaps, Indian milk economy has not yet become expensive enough to support the industrial production of milk. , Till that eventuality takes place marketing and processing will remain the only fields of activity for the modern managers" and engineers.

This association of glamour and skill with trading and processing activities is of course not merely-accidental. There seems to be something inherent in "modernity that gives preference to trading, handling and manipulating of products and markets over the actual tasks of production. In fact, looking at the repeated failure of modern techniques to help in the balanced growth of basic commodities at a reasonable cost, it seems that modernity perhaps has only a secondary interest in productive activities. Its primary concern seems to be with controlling the output. And till this control, can be achieved through processing and marketing activities alone, it remains unnecessary and uneconomical to dabble in the complex task of basic production. To control this output, it may .become necessary, at a later stage, to control the production and productive resources too, but modernisation of an economy always seems to begin with opening, it up for trade, through technological means if possible, with force if necessary.

In fact it seems rather difficult to understand the logic of the mad rush with which processing, transportation and marketing facilities have been generated under the OF project to the exclusion of all activities designed ,to enhance milk production.. The logic of it seems even further queer when we see that much of the handling capacity generated is lying unutilized. This phenomenon starts becoming understandable only when we remember the inordinate emphasis that modernity lays on opening up an economy for trade. This is considered so important that it is not found necessary to insist that capital employed for this purpose must produce an appropriate return.

In this connection it is apt to recall the experience of the .laying down of the Indian railways during the latter half of the last century. 1 This was an event of much bigger magnitude and much greater historical importance than the OF project. But in essential details the two (events turn out to be very similar. Indian railways were constructed by the British at the threshold of the forced modrnisation of Indian economy. Lines were laid down in a great rush with borrowed foreign money. For a long time in the beginning these lines remained idle and uneconomical, and the state-guaranteed return on the capital employed was paid out of the public moneys. The real return from the railways came, however, in the form of opening up of Indian economy to foreign trade. The railways made it possible to dump cheap foreign goods in the Indian market and to carry cotton and food grains from the interiors of India to the port cities, to be shipped from there to the metropolis for processing and consumption (35). The project OF seems to have done for the rural milk- economy exactly what the railways did for Indian economy as a whole. Courtesy of this project, milk can now be drained from the rural areas to the cities irrespective of the production.

Colonization of the productive hinterlands then seems to be the real intent of modernisation. It seems odd that Indian managerial, engineering and scientific experts should get together to help in this activity of colonizing their own people, in their own country. But it should be remembered that once a system of organization gets to be accepted it creates a sort of blindness about its ultimate consequences. The priorities and objectives of the system tend to be implicity accepted, and the experts can then use their expertise only to maximise the parameters that the system defines to be desirable. Thus it happens that the experts in milk economy work efficiently to generate facilities for taking away milk from the villages to the cities, believing in all honesty that in 'the process they are doing the people and the country an immense good, believing also that by their trading activities they are helping in enhancing production of milk. Given the dominance of the modern system it is perhaps impossible to convince the experts of the inappropriateness of their beliefs. It may be possible to show that through their activities production has not actually risen. They shall then believe that it will rise in the long run. If so much effort, money and technology is being poured in, it cannot be without a beneficial effect. Modernisation cannot go waste. That is the sort of blindness that an accepted system can generate.

The Indian modernizer in fact gets a little more than his share of blindness. He is after all a new-comer in the game of modernity. And, he has to prove his modern credentials. A western expert can once in a while afford to transcend the system and take a look at the actual needs and preferences of his society, and at the consequences his actions are having on the society as a whole. An Indian expert can hardly afford such luxury. He is under pressure to show that he has fully imbibed the modern system, that, he fully accepts its universal and objective truth, and that he is not swayed by parochial considerations of the peculiar needs of his society or the preference and sensitivities of his people in his purist of modernity. This Intense (pressure often leads to a touch of madness, the consequences of which we often see-all around us. Let us conclude with a tragic example of such madness. A few years, back two. sc entists from an agricultural university in India wrote a paper for a symposium on energy and agriculture to be held in the United States of America. The main theme of the paper was to prove that though some of the traditional foods and commodities popular pin India are good and healthy, yet they happen to be simply too expensive for the poor Indians to afford, and therefore they" must switch to synthetic alternatives. Thus they prove that cotton is good but- India can afford only synthetic fibers, ordinary, foods are good but we can afford only soya milk and so on. In their search for synthetic surrogates for naturally available essential commodities these experts of ours discovered that on the basis of protein calorie input and output basis, the human female happens to be as efficient a producer of milk as the cow. Promptly they suggested: '....the efficiency of energy conversion in women is as good as in the cow. It has therefore been suggested that to meet the demand at least partially, this may be developed as a source of commercial food for infants from wet nurses in lactriums, as has been done in some Western countries (36).

This outrageous suggestion that human females-should be commercially milked has perhaps been rashly made in the first flush of scientific enthusiasm and objectivity by people who had not yet learnt the art of hiding their intent behind delicate phraseology. But the madness and the insensitivity towards the basic sentiments of Indian people represented in the above suggestion does not seem to be rare amongst the Indian modernisers.

Author:O.K. Bajaj, Oansatta, & Samir Shah and H.S. Shankar


* The notes and references of this article have already been published in Part I of this article.

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