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Rice bran oil raises hopes

rice-bran-oilDemand for the antioxidant-rich rice bran oil is rising exponentially on the back of increased health consciousness among urban people, said industry operators.

The oil is extracted from the hard outer brown layer of rice after husking.

After an intense awareness campaign, particularly among housewives, demand for rice bran oil increased from 15-20 tonnes a day in 2012 to 70-100 tonnes now, according to industry insiders.

Consumers started switching to rice bran oil from soybean oil, according to Moinur Rahman, marketing manager of ACI Consumer Brands, which markets the ACI Nutrilife brand of rice bran oil. But it was not all plain sailing. Introduced in Bangladesh in 2011, the cooking oil had to get past plenty of misconceptions.

“We had faced a lot of difficulties during the initial days — people were completely oblivious to the existence of rice bran oil and its health benefits. Many even perceived it to be engine oil,” said Mazharul Islam, prime channel manager of Emerald Oil Industries Ltd (EOIL).

One reason for rice bran oil’s rising popularity is a reduction in its prices.

The price of each litre of rice bran oil was Tk 40 higher than soybean oil during the initial days. But the gap has now come down to Tk 20 each litre, said Rahman.

Rice bran oil’s growing demand has also created expectations of bringing down the country’s import dependency for cooking oil.

At present, the country spends over Tk 10,000 crore a year to import 14-15 lakh tonnes of edible oil against the domestic demand of 18 lakh tonnes, according to Bangladesh Bank and industry estimates.

“The rice bran oil holds very good market potential. We have the raw materials and there are many rice mills that can supply it,” the ACI official said.

The country produces more than 5 crore tonnes of paddy a year, which yields 40 lakh tonnes of rice bran, according to estimates by agricultural scientists.

ACI entered this segment of cooking oil market through toll manufacturing in 2012, when only EOIL and Rashid Oil Mills had started extracting oil by using locally available rice bran. Now, there are around eight firms, including Bangladesh Edible Oil Ltd.

City Group of Industries, a leading cooking oil processor and marketer, is also set to make its entry to this segment of cooking oil.

Biswajit Das, general manager of City Group, said the company has already set up machinery for the plant.

“The number of health conscious buyers is rising by the day — that’s why we are going for rice bran oil.”

The existing players too have expanded their production capacity on the back of the rising popularity.

EOIL, now listed on the bourses, increased its processing capacity last year and began production of its expanded unit in November last year. Currently, its total production capacity stands at 48 tonnes a day.

Islam said the company now produces around 40 tonnes of rice bran oil a day.

Report: Sohel Parvez
Source: Daily Star

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