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December 21, 2017

Malaysian palm oil council chief stresses trade ties with Pakistan


December 21, 2017

LAHORE: The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) Chief Executive Officer, Dr Kalyana Sundram, has proposed promotion of bilateral trade between Malaysia and Pakistan as former seeks greater share in latter’s market for palm oil and Pakistan has quality mangoes to export to Malaysia.

During an interview with The News on the sidelines of International Palm Oil Congress and Exhibition (PIPOC 2017) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, held in connection with centenary celebrations of Malaysian Palm Oil Industry, Dr Kalyana Sundram said Malaysia, being major producer and exporter of palm, depended heavily on market in Pakistan. However, with the kick in of Pakistan-Indonesian FTA, the level-playing field had gone and the price advantage towards Indonesian palm oil resulted in further decline in its market share. However, to be fair with Pakistani government, there are no trade barriers as far as Indonesian and Malaysian export of palm oil to Pakistan is concerned, he said.

He said that Pakistani market’s requirement of crude palm oil also caused decline in share, as Malaysia taxed export of crude palm oil from 7 to 7.5 pc. The crude oil supply will remain limited because Malaysia has its own refining capacity to value add into its own products. “Therefore, it is a big challenge to regain our share as Pakistan is a price sensitive market, yet we see an element of potential growth in development of packed products,” he said.

In Indian sub-continent, MPOC CEO said, total fat intake is even below the FAO recommended minimum level of 20pc of the energy, whereas ideal fat consumption should be, at least, 25 to 30 pc of the daily energy requirement. Therefore, daily fat intake should be about 18 to 25-kg per person per year but Pakistani population is consuming about 18-kg, which is way below the average, where actually the growth happens. As the economy develops and income per capita increases, Dr Sundram said, there will be increase in total consumption of oils and fats in Pakistan. “If we can progressively increase share in Pakistani market from existing 25 to 30pc to say 40pc in two years’ time that will be a great achievement,” he said. He said quality characteristics of traded palm oil, whether it is Malaysian or Indonesian, are very often identical. However, he said, the buyers feel more comfortable with Malaysian suppliers because every shipment from Malaysia is of the same quality, where Indonesia sometimes falters. So, Malaysia has that advantage over Indonesia. Historically, Dr Sundram said, there have always been accusations about palm oil with regard to health and nutrition. We responded by commissioning health and nutrition studies and clinical trials all over the world. We had undertaken collaborative research with Aga Khan Medical Centre/University in Karachi and Armed Forces Institution in Rawalpindi. Ultimately, he said, we succeeded in establishing that no harm comes to the population by the continuous consumption of palm oil. Malaysia, where 80pc of fat in daily diet comes from palm oil, is a good example and a living proof that palm oil is good for the population.

The typical Vanaspati in Pakistan is partially hydrogenated, which contains trans-fatty acid, which increases risk for heart disease. “We have formulations to manufacture Vanaspati with palm oil having zero trans-fatty acid,” he said, and advocated banning partially hydrogenated fat.

“We have come to know that Pakistan is contemplating to go for total liquid oil diet in Pakistan, which would require changing eating habits of the population in Pakistan,” Dr Sundram said, but added that liquid oils do not generally mean healthier as they have propensity to oxidize during frying at higher temperature. In January 2018, MPOC CEO said, “We plan to sit with the authorities in Punjab to ask them to rationalise their approach based on scientific evidence. We are prepared to engage in research to be undertaken in Pakistan to show proof of the concept. Punjab food and health authorities have to weigh in unbiased data and must adopt the evidence-based approach to frame its policies.”

“If all Vanaspati is removed, he believed, Pakistan will be compelled to import genetically modified soya bean oil, sunflower, rapeseed oil and the import cost will also be significantly higher that would entail further burden on economy. The growth rate of palm oil, compared to soya bean and sunflower, is bigger. Since Malaysia is a market leader in oleo chemicals industry, therefore he said, Pakistan can also benefit and use palm oil for oleo chemicals for indigenous production of detergents, soaps/shampoos, lipsticks, washing liquids, etc., in non-food applications, which is an untapped market in Pakistan as yet,” he said.

In almost all developing countries including Pakistan, Dr Sundram said, there is a vitamin-A deficiency, which may result in blindness. We developed a palm based product called red-palm oil, and according to interventional studies, one table spoon of red palm oil in daily diet will help overcome vitamin A deficiency.

Dr Sundram said that vitamin-A deficiency eradication programme is run by international agencies including United Nations with pharmaceutical industry having a very big footprint, therefore, we have been kicked out despite the fact that we proved the concept throughout the world.

But if there is an intervention programme in Pakistan to eradicate vitamin-A deficiency, he said, adding Malaysia will be willing to participate where red palm oil would be used as part of solution rather than a full solution.

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