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Anecdote has it that purchasing power and as a result, consumption of most items has gone down in the past 12-18 months. That appears true in a lot of cases – with a few exceptions in the food category. Tea, pulses, and palm oil –have all registered the highest import quantities ever for the July-October 4-month period. Some would pin it on reduced prices from a year ago in case of pulses and palm oil. But that does not quite explain the immense resilience shown by the three food import categories – when everything else has gone south.

Palm oil prices in the international spot market have stabilized over the past quarter –staying in a close range of +/-2-3 percent. The market seems to have found equilibrium around current levels – reverting to the 5-year historical average – having skyrocketed last year. Malaysia and Indonesia both relaxing the export quotas have eased the supply situation – and the demand from India, the biggest consumer, is only growing moderately – keeping prices range bound.

For Pakistan, the quantity of imports at 1.1 million tons for 4MFY24 is 7 percent clear year-on-year – and highest for any Jul-Oct period in recorded history. Retail prices have come down significantly in the fiscal year to date, but 4MFY24 average retail cooking oil price at Rs597/kg is still slightly higher than the same period last year.

It appears that the much talked-about crackdown has on smuggling of goods to and from Pakistan has fizzled out. In case of palm oil, it is highly likely that the efforts never really yielded significant results – as monthly numbers remain high. It does not take a rocket scientist to see how Afghanistan’s official palm oil imports are next to nothing. Afghanistan is not a small country by any means, and even accounting for differences in eating culture –rampant smuggling of palm oil into Afghanistan is the likeliest of explanation.

Shortcomings in terms of border control have led to colossal losses both in terms of precious foreign exchange, and tax revenue, over the years. It will never be too late to put the house in order and stop the leakage, for the poor consumer has been paying the cost for way too long in the form of taxes, and inflation.

Comments

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Tariq Qurashi Nov 30, 2023 11:43am
Why do we have to import Palm oil and Pulses? We spend a huge amount of money importing cooking oil. Locally grown alternatives to palm oil are produced all over the country, Why have we not increased their support price sufficiently to eliminate our need for imported cooking oil. Also importing pulses; really? The area which is now Pakistan used to be the bread basket of India. We should not be importing any agricultural products; period! No export or import of agricultural products should be allowed. Our support prices for each agricultural commodity should be sufficient to ensure that there is no shortfall in any area. What has the agriculture department been doing? We have much lower per/acre yield than India, and now we are import lentils?
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Muhammad Aamir Dec 01, 2023 03:23am
STOP? ... Do you know how harmful is palm oil for our heart & healthy? No where I see a single sentence on its effect on human body discussed in this article, why? God save from Palm Oil
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Muhammad Waqas Dec 01, 2023 06:36pm
@Tariq Qurashi, Its because the waderas of sugar mills control the agricultural policy. give the water scarcity we should give up the sugarcane crop and import it instead. our locally produced sugar isn't cheap either. so who benefits from this whole mess?
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Izhar Dec 02, 2023 10:11am
@Tariq Qurashi, cost of sunflower seeds is from Rs8000 to Rs.10000/ per kg.So it is not a viable business for farmers to grow sunflower.
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Sunny Dec 02, 2023 11:07am
Economically, palm oil is the most affordable cooking oil in the world. Without palm oil, poor people in Asia will suffer the high cost of alternative cooking oil. Nutrition wise, I suggest you to refer to MPOB website. It is cholesterol free and transfat free, contain highest amount of vitamin E compares to other type of cooking oil. Unlike soybean oil and canola oil it does not contain omega 6 that cause inflammation in body. Environmentally, please support sustainable palm oil or RSPO certified palm oil.
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