The main objective of this briefing and dialogue session is basically to provide the platform for the sharing of information with the Egyptian stakeholders on issues related to the use of palm olein in blended cooking oil.
The briefing and dialogue session was moderated by Prof. Dr Hanafy Hashem, the Professor of Food & Science Technology with the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Apart from Dr Hanafy, the panellists for the dialogues session comprised of Eng. Kamel Darwish, the Senior Food Standards Specialist representing the Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality (EOS) and Dr. Reda Abdel Jalil from the Egyptian Chamber of Food Industries.
The briefing was attended by 44 participants representing the major manufacturers of private brands cooking oils, contract manufacturers under the government subsidized cooking oil scheme, government enforcement agencies, the chamber of food industry and the national research centre.
Egypt’s Oils & Fats Profile
With a population of 84 million people, Egypt represents the largest market for oils & fats in the West of Suez region. Egypt is a major consumer of oils & fats including palm oil. Egypt is also a net importer of oils & fats. Domestic demand far exceeds the domestic production of oils & fats and the country is not expected to achieve self-sufficiency anytime soon. In 2012, Egypt imported approximately 1.87 million tonnes of oils & fats. Palm oil constitutes a big portion of the Egyptian oils & fats import requirements. Domestic consumptions of oils & fats recorded an increase of 8% in 2012 as compared to the total recorded in the previous year. Even though traditionally, Egypt is a solid fats market, the liquid oil market segment is growing steadily. Blended cooking oils is making inroad into Egypt. There are at least six major manufacturers selling blended palm olein cooking oil in Egypt. Their products are available in major supermarkets in Egypt such as Carrefour, Metro and Spinneys. These products are also available in small sundry shops all over the country. Palm olein is either blended with sunflower oil, soyabean oil, corn oil or blended with all of these oils.
Unfortunately, Egypt is currently facing a political turmoil which has deepened the division between Egyptians and worsened the distrust between the pro-government and anti-government groups. Consumer prices have jumped considerably, driven by the deteriorating security and the fall in the value of the Egyptian pound. This may further delay the decision by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to move forward with the request from Egypt for a US$4.8 loan badly needed by Egyptian government to jump-start its ailing economy. The new government is working hard to put in place new economic redevelopment programs aimed at improving the economy, which may in-turn improve the living standards and the purchasing power of the Egyptian population. This whole cycle may have an effect on the demand of oils & fats including palm oil. Ironically, for the moment, the political turmoil in Egypt has not badly affected the demand for oils & fats imports. The imports figure in 2012 remained almost the same as the total recorded in 2011. Last year Egypt imported around 1.87 million tonnes of oils & fats. Palm oil imports constitute approximately 37 percent of the total oils and fats imports in 2012. In fact, domestic consumptions during this period increased by about 8% to two million tonnes mainly due to the expansion of the eligibility under the government cooking oil ration program. Palm oil consumptions recorded a slight increase of about 3% compared to the figure recorded in 2011.
The Briefing Session
In his briefing, Dr Hanafy highlighted on the results of the test analysis which was done on palm olein. He stressed that the project was a successful collaboration between the Malaysian Palm Oil Council and the Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality (EOS). He clearly pointed out that the blending ratio outlined in the test analysis basically supported the recommended minimum usage of palm olein in the blending ratio during the winter months. Dr Hanafy also briefed the audience on the nutritional suitability of using palm olein as frying and cooking oil. Key data and information on the test analysis was distributed in the hand-outs to the audience.
In his opening remarks, Eng. Kamel Darwish pointed out that the palm olein collaborative project is an important first-step in achieving a long term cooperation between the Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality (EOS) and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) in the area of palm oil utilization and paved the way for the official compliance with the Egyptian standards article number 2142/2005.
The analysis emphasized on the suitability of using palm oil derivatives (palm olein/super olein) in the preparation of edible oils’ blends for frying in compliance with the Egyptian standards stipulated in this application. The analyses also take into consideration the stability of palm olein against oxidation and its price competitiveness. The study concluded that Palm olein and palm super olein are technically suitable for blending with other vegetable oils which are used locally for cooking and frying.
In his speech, Dr. Reda Abdel Jalil said that the Chamber of Food Industries was fortunate to be given the opportunity to take part in the collaborative work with the EOS and MPOC. He added that it is well known that palm olein is used in various applications by the food industry in Egypt.
The study was carried out in winter when the temperature reaches its minimum level. The city of Alexandria was chosen for this purpose. He concluded by saying the dialogue session will provide a useful platform in addressing any issues related to the use of palm olein in oil blends for cooking and frying.