Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Brisk sale of banned cooking oil brands

by May Kyaw
Tuesday, 18 August 2009 20:22

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Ban on four brands of imported cooking oil notwithstanding, brisk sales continues unabated because it is cheap.

The 'Food and Drug Administration' (FDA) banned four brands of cooking oil imported from Thailand and Malaysia on July 25 through state owned media but consumers are still buying the banned products.

"The market cannot change overnight. These brands have their market share in Burma. Unlike approved edible palm oil, they are not frozen, are bright in colour and the price is the same as palm oil. So they continue to be in the market," a cooking oil trader in Bayintnaung Commodity Exchange said.

Edible palm oil imported by Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. in bulk cargo vessels is selling at around Kyat 2,000 per viss (3.6 lbs) and other cooking oils are being sold at around Kyat 2,300.

After the banning of four brands of cooking oil, the price of domestically produced peanut oil, sesame oil and soya bean oil have been rising somewhat but it is only due to rising input costs, oil mill owners said.

The FDA under the Ministry of Health said that they banned the four brands for it threatened to cause health hazardous for consumers. It categorically denied that detergent powder was being mixed in the approved edible palm oil as has been rumoured.

"It's impossible. We have tested them in various outlets in various ways. Soap is in fact the byproduct of either cooking oil or other oils. It is impossible to mix these byproducts again into cooking oils," FDA Director General Dr. Kyaw Linn said.

Consumers prefer the banned cooking oils (they call them shrimp oil) over approved edible palm oil. They cannot afford to buy expensive peanut oil and sesame oil.

"The price of peanut oil and sesame oil are high in the domestic market. It goes over Kyat 4,000 per viss and peanut oil is now selling at Kyat 3,300 per viss. The consumers cannot afford it. The colour of edible palm oil is unattractive and it is frozen. The price of shrimp oil is still around Kyat 2,000 so consumers will continue to use it," an oil mill owner said.

The Health Ministry’s reason for the ban order is that it causes hypertension, heart disease and cancer.

A member of Myawadi Chamber of Commerce said that they are still importing banned cooking oils from Myawadi and Kawthaung border port of entry because of high market demand.

Around 35 private companies are running palm oil plantations in Tanintharyi Division as an import substitute to meet the high domestic demand but the import of these cooking oils are getting higher and higher by the year.

With a 56 million population, Burma has high oil consumption and it imported 250,000 tons of cooking oil in the 2008-09 fiscal year, which is 40,000 tons more compared to the 2007-08 fiscal year.

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