Food processing constitutes a major economic sector in developing countries for the following reasons. Firstly, processed food constitutes one of the most important basic needs goods, especially in urban areas where low-income families are not equipped to carry out the basic processing of agricultural and animal products. Secondly, food-processing allows the consumption of seasonal agricultural products over the whole year and therefore minimises the important price fluctuations resulting from the periodic gluts and shortages of the fresh products. Consequently, both the farmers and consumers benefit from a greater price stability. Thirdly, food-processing could generate substantial foreign exchange in countries which produce a large surplus of agricultural products.

Given the importance of the food-processing sector and its potential contribution to the achievement of major socio-economic objectives, the expansion of this sector should be carefully planned with a view to maximising its impact on the national economy. In particular, the choice of processing technology and scale of production should be such as to ensure the fulfilment of various development objectives such as the generation of productive employment, the production of low-priced processed food products suitable for low-income groups, rural industrialisation, foreign exchange savings, the generation of backward and forward linkages with other sectors of the economy, etc.

A number of developing countries recognise the importance of the food-processing sector and have developed and promoted food-processing techniques consonant with the countryÂ’s development objectives. In particular, they have maintained an adequate balance between small-scale food-processing units using labour-intensive or intermediate techniques and large-scale units using imported, capital-intensive technologies.

Unfortunately, a large number of countries have not been able to maintain such a balance for various reasons, one of them being the lack of technical and economic information on alternative food-processing technologies. Thus, small food-processing units are being increasingly replaced by imported large-scale plants - often turn-key factories - which are not always suitable to local socio-economic conditions. The choice of inappropriate technologies has often led governments to subsidise large-scale food-processing plants or to supply them in priority with the needed raw materials to the detriment of the existing small processing units. Yet, these latter units could use improved technologies which have already been successfully adopted in a number of countries, and be more competitive than the imported large-scale plants. As detailed information on these technologies is not generally available to small-scale producers in developing countries, the International Labour Office has started a new series of technical memoranda on specific products and processes for wide dissemination among these producers as well as public planners and industrial development agencies which have an important role to play in the promotion of appropriate food-processing technologies. Eight technical memoranda on these technologies have already been published or are under preparation.1 Some of these memoranda are being jointly published with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and/or the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

1 A technical memorandum on small-scale fish processing has already been published. Six technical memoranda on food-processing - in addition to this one - are at various stages of preparation. They cover the most important food products of interest to developing countries.

This technical memorandum on oil extraction from groundnuts and copra covers the pre-processing of raw materials, oil extraction through pressing and the post-treatment stages. It provides detailed technical and economic information on small-scale oil extraction mills using either small expellers or power ghanis, and processing between 100 tonnes to 220 tonnes of raw materials per year. An economic comparison between these small-scale plants and medium to large-scale plants is provided in Chapter IV. However, as this comparison is based on a number of assumptions regarding the market prices of raw materials (groundnuts and copra) and oil, equipment costs, etc., it should not be used as a basis for the choice of oil extraction technology and scale of production. Instead, the interested reader should undertake his own evaluation of the latter on the basis of the technical information contained in Chapters II and III, and local factor prices (e.g. wages, raw materials prices, oil prices).

As public planners may be interested in the socio-economic impact of alternative oil extraction technologies. Chapter V provides information on the following effects of small-scale and large-scale oil extraction units: employment generation, basic needs satisfaction, energy requirements, transport costs, and multiplier effects. It also suggests a few policy measures for the promotion of the right mix of oil extraction technologies.

Whenever possible, detailed information is provided for the local manufacture of ancillary equipment which may be needed by small-scale oil mills. In addition, a list of equipment suppliers is included in an appendix of this memorandum with a view to facilitating the procurement of equipment (e.g. expellers, power ghani units, filtering equipment) by small-scale producers. It must, however, be emphasised that the supply of names of equipment manufacturers does not imply a special endorsement of the latter by the ILO. These names are only provided for illustrative purposes, and oil producers should try to obtain information from as many suppliers/manufacturers as feasible.

This memorandum does not describe all existing oil extraction technologies. Rather, a choice has been made from among those which have been successfully applied by small-scale millers in a number of developing countries. Other technologies, not described in this memorandum, may also be adapted to local conditions and tried in a few production units with a view to assessing their technical and economic efficiency. The bibliography in Appendix VI should provide useful information on these technologies.

A questionnaire is attached at the end of the memorandum for those readers who may wish to send to the ILO or UNIDO their comments and observations on the content and usefulness of this publication. These will be taken into consideration in the future preparation of additional technical memoranda.

This memorandum was prepared by J. Keddie (consultant) and M. Allal, staff member in charge of the series of technical memoranda within the Technology and Employment Branch of the ILO. Mr. A.M. Das (consultant) collaborated in the economic evaluation of alternative oil extraction technologies.

A. S. Bhalla,
Technology and Employment Branch.

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.