A [real life] picture says a thousand words: India Day 2

Editor’s note: This is the second post in a series about Becca’s travels in India. For the first post, visit My textbooks definitely did not prepare me for this: India 2013.

January 5

Our small group had the privilege of joining Naresh Jain, an associate at Bhakti Soya Pvt. Ltd, for a few hours filled with analyzing the value addition of soybean processing: from the agricultural product market to the soy processing plant.

The morning began at Jaina market, where we observed the process by which soybeans and other locally grown crops are sold. According to Jain, India’s market infrastructure is owned and operated by the government; space within the market is leased to individual sellers, while market agents charge farmers approximately 2.5% commission on their sales. Through auction format, much value may be lost, and the farmer may have little security/insurance on the money they garner from their crop.

We also had an opportunity to see produce in the market, including bananas, onions, peppers, limes, and more.

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We then visited the soya plant. In India, the soybean is processed into primarily oil or meal. Meal is derived into SEM, high protein, or soybean flour. A variety of processes are used to process the soybean to extract oil, including both chemical and mechanical methods. For the chemical extraction, hexane is used in India, the United States, and South America. Though significantly less efficient, and thus more expensive, mechanical extraction of oil has attracted a niche market alternative. These products have a variety of uses.

Following our visit, it appeared to be a common consensus that standing in the market — an intricate component of the value addition process — brought to life the mere numbers, figures and graphs we have read through the fall semester seminar, as well as other courses. The amount of food wasted was breathtaking, and even heartbreaking; quantifying it does no justice.

We also agreed that there is much to be optimistic about. For example, a Dahl analogue is being created from soybean flour (DSF) and wheat flour, in a 50:50 ratio, as a substitute for pulses. Because of the climate, India is the biggest global importer of pulses — as a high-protein foodstuff — but the price is making its use inefficient. Though acceptance has been low throughout India, Dahl analogue promises significant economic efficiency with even higher protein than pulses.

The blatant inefficiencies in this system (i.e. resource waste, commission, high number of intermediaries between producer and consumer, etc.) were highlighted alongside the obvious system successes, and I think it is safe to say that we are motivated to learn more about the system in order to make it more efficient and maximize India’s agricultural and economic resources.

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Becca is an undergraduate in animal science and international agriculture at Cornell University. Her interests lie in writing, rhetoric, and the social side of science. She is particularly interested in how the public and consumers view, communicate — and respond to — technology used in food agriculture, and how such study can be used to influence effective policy, increasing accessibility of this food domestically and internationally.