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Interviews- Expert Speak

“India has the potential to become an exporter of edible oil”

Gokaran Singh Pawar, General Manager – Sales & Operations, M K Agrotech

The bulk of edible oil consumed in India is imported, making it incumbent on the industry to reduce its heavy reliance on imports. While the government is taking initiatives to ease this dependency, the Indian edible oil industry is working towards stepping up to this challenge. In this regard, nuFFooDS Spectrum recently interacted with Sunpure edible oil brand, from M K Agrotech, based in Srirangapatna, Karnataka. The company is present in key markets across India, including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Goa, and Kerala. Gokaran Singh Pawar, General Manager – Sales & Operations, M K Agrotech, spoke at length about the status of the Indian edible oil industry and the company’s growth plans. Edited excerpts:

What were the key business highlights for your company in 2022? What are your major plans for 2023?

As South India’s largest edible oil brand, Sunpure has had a remarkable year, despite the persisting global challenges and tough market realities. In 2022, we registered 15 per cent growth, while continuing to garner overwhelming love from our consumers in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Goa and Tamil Nadu.

For the coming year, our target is to reach 20 per cent growth across segments. Apart from strengthening our presence in the local oils segment, we also have an exciting line-up of new product launches in 2023. Each of our products espouses healthy living, thereby strengthening the deep connection that Sunpure has developed with Indian consumers for over two decades.

With three plants at Srirangapatna, Challakere, and Nelamangala, the company has more than 800 distributors and now aims at setting up more than 2 lakh outlets by 2025.

How much revenue is expected in FY 2022-23? What are the key products driving the business growth and why?

We are expecting a revenue of Rs 3,200 to 3,400 crore for FY 2022-23. The key products driving business growth are our edible oils and food products.

As India’s first chemical-free processed and physically refined oil with a government-patented technology, Sunpure has always focused on the health and wellbeing of its customers. We help consumers make informed choices about their health and nutrition.

Additionally, we have our in-house research and development team, to ensure the quality of the products and technology, which have been standardised by our high-skilled professionals.

Whether it’s Sunpure Sunflower oil, Sunpure Filtered Groundnut Oil, Sunpure Rice Bran Oil, Sunpure Refined Groundnut Oil, Sunpure Vanaspati, Sunpure Palmpure (imported refined palmolein oil), Sunpure Sugar (refined via a sulphur-free process) or Sunpure swaad (whole wheat aata produced using Swiss technology), consumers see the value in our products.

Our chemical-free oils, with natural vitamins and natural antioxidants, have disrupted the edible oils segment in India. Similarly, Sunpure’s green manufacturing practices have further paved the way for ecologically sound solutions. We use 100 per cent green electricity generated by windmills, producing eight times more power than we consume! As a company we have made every effort to ensure environmental safety. Our plants run on renewable energy that we produce. We can proudly say that all of our production facilities have received the Zero Discharge Certification.

Are you planning to launch new products?

Yes, Sunpure will be launching quite a few new products in the coming months.  A new range of oils and food products, including spices and nuts, are in the pipeline.

The decision to enter the food industry was made to ensure quality, purity, and innovation as our guiding principles. In addition to offering high-quality goods, our goal as a food company is to put a strong emphasis on our clients’ wellbeing. All of these products come in enticing packaging at a competitive and reasonable price. With health and wellness at its core, Sunpure brand has now embarked upon a journey of transforming itself into a full-stack food company with a wide range of products.

What are the current challenges facing the edible oil industry? What are your expectations from the government in this regard?

Currently, 63 per cent of edible oil consumed in India is imported. The biggest challenge for the industry is to reduce its heavy dependence on imports. While pandemic-induced lockdowns disrupted supply chains, domestic shortages and inflations in a tumultuous global scenario have shed light on the urgent need for India to become self-reliant in terms of meeting its domestic demand for edible oils.

A boost from the government to create a sustainable ecosystem for Indian farmers will certainly help reduce our dependence on imports. Initiatives like Hosa Prapancha (new world), which aim to reach out to farmers and help them shift to oilseed farming, as well as improve the quality and yield of their crop, need to be replicated.

At Sunpure, we are actively working with farmers in Karnataka to procure groundnut seeds and sunflower seeds. We are also exploring palm plantations to help boost edible oil productivity in the country.

What are your suggestions to the industry and regulators to reduce dependence on edible oil imports?

Our suggestion is to invest in Research and Development (R&D) vis-à-vis agricultural yields. Given the vast R&D potential of Indian agriculture scientists, we can develop scientific ways to yield better crops as well as to ensure the restoration of cultivation lands. We believe that India has the potential to become an exporter of edible oil.

The government is boosting domestic production of oilseeds. What are your views on this?  What challenges do you foresee?

The move is significant, given that the government had to lower the import duty on edible oils several times in the recent past so as to control food inflation. The need of the hour is to spread greater awareness among Indian farmers about the benefits of oilseeds production. We need to communicate clearly about the issues we have to deal with – storage facilities for example, in order to inspire change. As an industry, we need to step up to the challenge.

Will GM mustard be a game changer for the edible oil sector?

Yes, it could turn out to be a game changer, particularly in North India. While GM mustard may increase productivity with lower cost of cultivation, it is too early to predict its impact in the Indian scenario.

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