Cooking oil imports likely to drop

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Cooking oil imports in Bangladesh may drop 2.33 percent to 2.10 million tonnes in fiscal 2016-17, according to the US Department of Agriculture — a forecast that has been disputed by industry insiders.

Import may rise to 2.2-2.3 million tonnes this fiscal year, said Tariq Ahmed, director of operations and marketing of TK Group of Industries, a major oil importer.

“People nowadays take more protein, poultry and fish due to a rise in their purchasing power. This automatically leads to an increase in edible oil consumption,” he added.

Bangladesh, with its 16 crore population and rising industrial demands, consumed 2.31 million tonnes of vegetable oil in fiscal 2015-16, up 11 percent year-on-year.

Total consumption is expected to rise to 2.52 million tonnes during the current fiscal year, according to the USDA.  Bangladesh has to meet nearly 90 percent of its annual requirement of oil through imports from Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil and Argentina.

“Imports are unlikely to decline,” said Asif lqbal, executive director of marketing of Meghna Group of Industries, another importer.

Consumption is increasing owing to income growth and a shift to packaged oil on health grounds for vitamin A fortification by a section of consumers, he added.

But AKM Fakhrul Alam, regional manager for Bangladesh and Nepal of Malaysian Palm Oil Council, was in somewhat agreement with the USDA forecast.

The volume of import might decline this fiscal year for sluggish consumption growth of edible oil in rural areas.

Consumption grew fast in rural areas over the last five to seven years because of higher remittance inflows and relatively better prices of agricultural produce, he said.

The imports during the July-December period of the fiscal year were the same as a year earlier, he said, adding that it is likely to decline in January.

However, overall imports may rise this year, he added.

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