At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were an estimated 500 000 ghanis in India which crushed 97 percent of all oilseeds (Achaya, 1990). The remaining 3 percent, mostly rape and mustard seeds, coconut and groundnuts, were processed in rotary units which were no more than mechanized ghanis installed in factories. Virtually all the oil used in the country, about 800 000 tonnes, was processed by ghanis. These numbers dropped sharply as power-driven screw-presses, hydraulic presses and solvent-extraction units came into operation. A further switch to rotaries for rape and mustard seeds and coconut, and to expellers for groundnuts and castor beans, rapidly brought down ghani usage for all oilseeds to 40 percent in the 1930s and 28 percent in the 1940s (Achaya, 1990).
In the 1930s, Mahatma Gandhi inspired the formation of an organization devoted to the resuscitation of village industries, including oilseed crushing, which is now called the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC). This organization has steadily evolved a succession of improved oilseed crushing devices. The first of these, the Wardha ghani, was still worked by animals, but it was followed by several units that employed electric power for traction: the rotating barrel power ghani, the overhead power ghani, the portable power ghani and the portable overhead power ghani. Assistance by way of loans for both capital and working expenditure is granted by the KVIC both to individuals and to cooperative organizations to modernize traditional ghanis with power-driven pestles or to install the new power ghanis.
By the mid-1950s the number of ghanis had fallen to 300 000, and in 1983, despite the efforts of the KVIC, the figure was placed at 100 000 to 150 000 (Achaya, 1990). About 60 000 units were beneficiaries of KVIC assistance, of which 37 percent were traditional ghanis, 50 percent earlier forms of the power ghani and 13 percent later designs.
At present, just 4 percent of all oilseeds are pressed in ghanis. The proportions of individual oilseeds crushed in ghanis have been estimated as follows: safflower seeds, 40 percent; sesame seeds, 24 percent; rape and mustard seeds, 6 percent; groundnuts, 2.5 percent; and copra, 1 percent (Achaya, 1993). The major drawback is the low production capacity of ghanis. Even modern ghani units can press 100 kg of oilseeds per working day at best. As long as the present subsidies, such as exemption of sales tax on ghani oil, are retained as a measure of commitment to village industries, ghani operations can be expected to survive.