We know edible oil is a very essential item in our daily life. Without this we cannot even think of the preparation of our different food items. It is one of the major challenges in our agricultural sector that we are not self-sufficient in edible oil. Every year huge amount of foreign exchange we spend for importing different types of edible oil. Soybean oil and palm-oil are the major importing items of edible oil. Though soybean is also produced in some places in Bangladesh but the volume of production is not sufficient for our consumption. Half a century back people of this part of this sub-continent were habituated of mustard oil as edible oil. Majority people were used to with mustard oil. Mustard oil is still now an important edible oil item of many families in Bangladesh. Mustard oil is costlier than soybean and palm oil. And the production of mustard seeds for extraction of edible oil cannot meet up the demand of the people in Bangladesh. For that reason we are heavily dependent upon importing soybean oil and palm oil. Out of these there are some high-cost edible oil marketed in Bangladesh. The affluent people are the consumers of those items of edible oil. Those are canola, olive, sunflower etc.
In such a situation the prospect of rice bran oil might be a good alternative of soybean oil, palm oil etc. We know Bangladesh is one of the major rice producing country in the present day world. And in the recent past we have become self sufficient in rice production as staple food. By and large we are now producing about four crores tons of rice in one calendar year. So we have great potentials of producing of rice bran oil as the byproduct of rice. If we can exploit this potential Bangladesh has the good chance of to be self-sufficient in edible oil. It is also considered by many that rice bran oil is healthier and non-fatty, containing less cholesterol ingredients. So it is more useful than soybean or palm.
Rice bran is a byproduct of rice. Generally people get about 26-27 kg rice out of 40 kg paddy after husking. The rest 13-14 kg is crude-husk which is called bran. These bran/husks generally are used as fodder and fuel. And one can notice this in the rice mills area at Kushtia, Pabna, Naogaon and other districts also. Apart from this, in the traditional hearth, husk is also used as fuel. But nowadays some privet entrepreneurs have taken the initiatives to extract edible oil from this bran. We get rice bran oil produced in 2/3 companies. Still now the presence of rice bran oil in the market is not significant. Moreover the price of 5 liter can is costlier than the soybean or palm oil. But abundant source of raw materials the prospect of rice bran oil is very promising. To popularize this edible oil, authorities concerned should try to keep the price the rice bran oil within the reach of common people. If it is so the production of rice bran oil will jump shortly and people can get the benefit from this initiative. Now integrated initiative is required by the all concerned for boosting the production of rice bran oil. Otherwise a great potential of rice bran oil will be lost.
Rice husk or bran used only for fodder and fuel is a kind of wastage of its economic value. The process of extraction of edible oil is a complex system. It is not easy like extracting mustard oil from the mustard seeds. By and large, 4 to 5 steps have to be followed for extraction oil from the rice bran. And after that deodorizing the crude we can get the finished bran oil for marketing. Moreover, the extracting machine is also costlier. So it needs a significant capital investment. To follow all these process costing of rice bran goes high. Maybe for this reason this oil could not capture major share of the edible oil market in our country and still now the price is considered to be higher and it is out of reach from common people.
So to promote rice bran and making it available to the common people it needs sufficient investment. Banks and commercial money lending companies can provide this proposed capital for investment. If capital is guaranteed, the private entrepreneurs will come forward to this sector for producing rice bran oil. And in this way a large number of employments might be created in different places in the country. The byproduct of rice bran called as bran-cake can also be a good source of animal food and fish food. For that reason this initiative might have a multiple effect on our national economy. Apart from the mustard there are other seeds like sesame, linseed, cotton seed which are also the sources of edible oil. But production of these kind of oil seeds is not significant and gradually those are being extinguished from the market as the production of such kind of seeds are getting decreased and also these seeds are not getting proper importance from the researchers in our country. But prospect of sunflower oil is very promising. People show interest and pay attention to this oil seed. Presently in many areas of the country farmers cultivate sunflower commercially for edible oil. But all this initiatives need more agricultural land for producing oil seed. We all know that land is very scarce in Bangladesh. Especially agricultural land producing oil seeds is very limited. Farmers in our country want to use their land for production of rice and other staple food crops. In this case rice bran has a great advantage. The source of rice bran is abundant as it is the byproduct of rice. So the supply of raw material of this oil will always be ensured.
Recently the price of edible oil is going high and there is no symptom of decreasing the price. In addition businessmen are trying to increase edible price again and their initiatives is now in the pipeline as it has been reported in the different national dailies. In this way the price of edible oil especially soybean oil might be a tough item to the common people. This situation is also alarming to all of us. In such a situation why not we do opt for large scale production of rice bran oil. Bangladesh has all the potentials of large scale production of rice bran oil. And Bangladesh is now one of the major rice producing country in the present day world. For that there will be no chance of scarcity of rice bran, the raw material of this edible oil. For that reason we should promote the prospects of rice bran oil. So, government should take effective steps for large scale production of rice bran oil. If that is so, many people will get job in this sector. And for that reason, researchers, policymakers and high-ups of the government should take positive approach to start large scale production of rice bran oil. Maybe in this way the scarcity of edible oil in our country might be minimized.
Dr. Syed Nesar Ahmad Rumy, Retired Civil Servant and Freelancer, Dhaka
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