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Indonesia’s ban on palm oil exports a concern but impact to be transitory: FMCG industry

Indian FMCG players, particularly food and snacks manufacturers, have said they are concerned about Indonesia’s move to ban exports of crude palm oil, though some of them expect the decision is likely to have only transitory impacts on a short-term basis.

Several industry leaders hint that they will reduce their reliance on palm oil in phases and shift to alternatives such as rice bran oil and cottonseed oil for food products.

Last week Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer, banned shipments of crude palm oil (CPO), adding to the previous sanctions on refined oil, to soften the prices in its domestic market.

However, the Indian industry and experts expect the impact of this will be transitory in nature as Indonesia consumes only around one-third of its palm oil output.

India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) “believes that the ban is unlikely to sustain for a long duration, given that Indonesia consumes less than 40 per cent of its total palm oil production, resulting in the impact being transitory”.

India is the world’s largest importer and second-largest consumer of palm oil, which accounts for around 30 per cent of the country’s edible oil consumption, said Ind-Ra.

Expressing similar views Mayank Shah, senior category head at Parle Product, said palm oil is perishable and eventually they (Indonesian exporters) would have to open up. Their production is much higher than the local requirement.

“Hopefully, there could be some reversal in this in the next 10 days as it is not possible for them to continue with the ban for a longer time,” Shah told PTI.

According to him, the ban is expected to stay for a short period and there should not be an impact on the prices as companies have enough stocks.

“However, if the ban continues for a long period then there would be challenges. The question is how long they can continue with the ban,” Shah said.

Indonesia has imposed a ban on palm oil exports to increase domestic availability and check the rising prices of the commodity in that country. Some reports indicated that the ban did not apply on CPO but on refined bleached deodorized palmolein, but the government widened the scope a couple of days later to also include CPO.

Palm oil is preferred in India by the food industry as it is relatively cheaper, lasts longer and is more stable at high temperatures than other oils.

CPO is used by most of the food companies, while soap makers in India use a derivative Palm Fatty Acid Distillate (PFAD), a key input for making soaps, soap noodles etc.

Snacks making firm Bikano’s chief operating officer Pankaj Agarwal said it was a point of worry for all the snack majors in India as palm oil is one of the important ingredients in our products.

However, I have also suggested looking at alternatives like rice bran oil and cottonseed oil.

“Palm oil is one of the important ingredients in our products… With the given situation, we will have to look at some alternative options like rice bran oil and cottonseed oil,” said Agarwal.

Last week, the largest FMCG major HUL had said it does not see any issue in procurement in terms of volumes, which it needs to produce materials whether it’s PFAD or other derivatives of palm used for its business.

In a post-results call with the media, HUL CFO Ritesh Tiwari said India needs to do a lot of work to drive palm production into the country. That needs government support.

“We also keep looking for alternate materials for producing our product and reducing our reliance on palm,” he added.

India imports over 90 per cent of its 22 MNT of demand, mostly in the form of CPO. Indonesia constitutes around 50 per cent of the imports, while 45 per cent of imports are from Malaysia and the rest from Thailand, Ind-Ra report said.

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