The Agriculture Machinery Centre (AMC), with support from the Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP), has developed an improved method of oil extraction, in order to keep the organic oil production going.
The traditional practice was found to be labour intensive and time consuming, discouraging the farmers from the oil extraction work. The process required a thorough pounding the oil seeds into a powdery form followed by a steaming process. The steamed powered seeds are then pressed using heavy and bulky indigenous equipment, such as a piece of plank, few boulders, bamboo basket and pans, to extract the oil.
AMC has designed and tested a steaming unit to extract oil. Grinding the oil seeds in the machine and mixing in 7 percent of hot water and then expelling with temperature of above 600 degree Celsius was suitable for drawing out more oil.
The new method has been tested and found to be time efficient and easy to use. JDNP supported the venture by giving a nine-bolt oil expeller. The oil recovered from the improved oil expeller was recorded at 16.6 percent. The whole process can be done by the same machine designed for oil extraction which is less laborious. The improved method takes two hours less time to extract oil compared to the traditional method of oil extraction. This is expected to revive the dying out practice of organic oil production by the local farmers.
Cooking oil is a heavily imported commodity in the country, apart from rice, meat, dairy product, etc. As such imports have a direct bearing on the Indian Rupee (INR) drain, therefore, the Research Development Center (RDC), Bajo, in collaboration with the National Organic Program (NOP), Simtokha, initiated the local and organic oil production program to cut down on the import of cooking oil, and in attaining a self-sufficiency in food production.
Bhutan has the potential of achieving cooking oil self-sufficiency, especially in the mustard oil, without having to displace the other crops. The decline in the production of oil by the local farmers, as per the agriculture ministry, is due to the less priority received by the particular crop when compared to the rest of the other crops.
However, with the support from the agriculture ministry in growing the oil seeds and the traditional method of oil extraction blended with modern technology, the farmers can now look forward to growing more oil seeds to produce oil, and make the locally produced oil available for sale in the market.