In the wake of the financial crisis in 2008, it emerged that the Greek economy was in much worse shape than anyone had thought. Foreign debt that was out of control, plenty of red tape and profligate spending on welfare, alongside poor tax collection, were the factors behind this.Read more »
Hungary, with a population of 10 million, is a landlocked country in central Europe. Nearly one-fifth of the population lives in Budapest, the capital city.
A few years after Hungary joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, declining exports, reduced consumption and fixed asset accumulation hit its economy hard. During the 2008 financial crisis, the country entered a severe recession, with its economy shrinking by 6.4% – one of the worst contractions in its history.
A downward spiral set in. Banks gave out fewer loans and investment activity plummeted. This, along with growing price sensitivity of the consumer, caused a decline in consumption, resulting in job losses and further reduction of economic activity. Inflation did not rise significantly, but real wages dropped.
After the 2010 election, the economy began to recover with a big boost from exports, especially to Germany. In 2011, a growth rate of about 1.7% was achieved. At the end of the year, the government turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the EU for financial support, to refinance its foreign currency debt and future bond obligations. When Hungary rejected the economic policy recommendations favoured by the EU and IMF, talks broke down in late 2012.
In 2016, the Hungarian economy grew by 2%. The government is pursuing two goals in its economic policy: the creation of one million new jobs over the next 10 years; and the transformation of the legal framework to make Hungary ‘the most competitive economy in Europe’.
Of Hungary’s production of oils and fats in 2016, 75% comprised sunflower oil. It is interesting to note that domestic production, in general, has been growing significantly in recent years (Figure 1).
In line with the political goals to push the economy forward, exports have seen impressive growth since 2010. Oils and fats exports more than doubled during this period (Figure 2), carried mainly by sunflower oil.
Imports are moving at a much lower level. Intake of rapeseed oil and sunflower oil has fallen in the long-term trend (Figure 3). Only palm oil imports have grown over the last couple of years, with finished products topping the list (Figure 4).
Hungary’s economic policy appears to be aimed at supporting export industries and substituting imports where possible. At the same time, there is an effort to attract foreign direct investment to grow the employment base.
This approach is manifested in the oils and fats sector as well – domestic production and exports have expanded, while imports have remained relatively lacklustre. With Hungary trying to shape itself into an export base for the EU and eastern European neighbours, there may be a role for palm oil in supplying inputs to processing industries.
The Malaysian oil palm industry had put in a sterling performance in 2017. Crude palm oil (CPO) production and fresh fruit bunch (FFB) yield were significantly better, following recovery from the impact of the El Nino phenomenon a year earlier. According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, higher palm oil prices and improved demand helped push export earnings to RM77.85 billion, up from RM67.92 billion in 2016.Read more »
Ireland´s economy, which is export-oriented and open to foreign investors, has benefitted greatly from globalisation. An extended boom since the 1990s – marked by high growth rates, steeply increasing per capita income and sharp falls in unemployment – was followed from 2008 by a bust that lasted several years.
But Ireland is again living up to its reputation of being the ‘Celtic Tiger’. Impressive growth rates, such as 8% in 2014 and over 5% in 2017, make it the leader among EU member-states.
Ireland also remains an attractive location for foreign direct investors using the island as an export base for the rest of Europe. The main sectors are financial services, the communications industry, software and pharmaceutical products, as well as medical industries.
The US is by far the largest investor. American companies in Ireland employ around 140,000 people. American FDI amounted to US$311 billion in 2013. To put this into perspective, Germany and France together invested about US$196 billion, according to the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland.
Interestingly, soybean oil is the only vegetable oil produced in Ireland albeit on a limited scale of several thousand tonnes per year. It seems that Irish agriculture is trying to reduce its dependency on imported protein for animal feed.
Palm oil dominates the imported vegetable oils sector. The 85,000 tonnes in 2016 represented over 40% of oils and fats imports. While the level of palm oil remains relatively high, soybean and rapeseed have gained ground in the last few years (Figure 1).
While Malaysia and the Netherlands together supply nearly 90% of the palm oil sold to Ireland, Malaysia has been able to widen the lead since 2014 (Figure 2).
Experience suggests that, as societies become wealthier and more urbanised, and as general education levels rise, the taste for all things sustainable also grows.
This is the case in Ireland, which has progressed from being Europe´s poorhouse to Celtic Tiger. About one-third of the population of 4.6 million lives in the metropolitan area of Dublin, the capital.
In particular, concerns over the environment and issues like global warming have become more evident. For example, the Irish subsidiary of German discount chain Aldi states on its website: ‘As of January 2016 we achieved our goal for 100% of the palm oil used in our own label food products in the UK and Ireland to be from RSPO certified, sustainable sources. This includes all palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm derivatives and fractions. Having achieved 100% sustainable palm oil in food, we aim to have 100% sustainable palm oil in non-food products by the end of 2018.’
The lesson here, as in most European countries, is that the future belongs to certified sustainably produced palm oil. Industry players should take this into account when thinking about the market potential that Ireland presents. Palm oil is already the primary vegetable oil consumed in the country, and there is potential for biofuels as well.
Measured by gross domestic product (GDP), Italy is ranked tenth among the world’s largest economies. The main driver is the manufacture of high-quality consumer goods produced by small- and medium-size enterprises, many of them family-owned.
The third-largest economy in the Eurozone, Italy has suffered many problems. After strong GDP growth of 5-6% per year from the 1950s to the early 1970s, there was a slowdown over the 1980s and 1990s. In the last decade, the annual growth rate was poor, averaging 1.2% and comparing unfavourably with the EU average of 2.3%.
Stagnation in economic growth, coupled with political efforts to revive it with massive government spending from the 1980s, resulted in a sharp rise in public debt. In 2016, this reached a staggering 132% of GDP. Within the EU, only Greece is in worse shape.
After a drastic decline in economic output of about minus 9% in 2008 compared to the pre-crisis level, Italy recorded growth of 0.8% in 2015. Still, unemployment at 12% was a problem, with youth unemployment at over 40%. But the inflation rate was 0.1% in 2015, lower than the 0.2% of 2014 and 1.2% of 2013.
Energy supply in Italy is characterised by high dependence of about 79% on imports. The demand for energy is covered to 36% by petrol, 35% by gas, 15% by renewable energy, 9% by solid fuels and 5% by imported electricity.
In the renewable energy sector, the biomass and biogas industry is gradually gaining importance, albeit at a low level. Legislation introduced in June 2014 has restricted the subsidies available for renewables.
Reliance on palm oil
Italy produces 1.3 million tonnes of oils and fats per year. More than one-third of this is olive oil, a staple in its cuisine.
It is the second-largest importer of palm oil in Europe after the Netherlands. This is all the more impressive considering that much of the Dutch imports are for oil processing and re-export as refined products. In Italy, though, the high demand is attributed to a vibrant food processing industry and strong consumer demand among the population of 60 million.
It is interesting that the combined purchases of only four of the EU-28 member-states in 2014, namely the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Germany, accounted for well over two-thirds of the EU´s palm oil imports (Figure 1).
While Italy’s intake of palm oil more than tripled over the decade preceding 2014, it has since declined. Between 2014 and 2016, the volume dropped by more than 13% (Figure 2).
However, this drop appeared to be almost entirely attributable to Indonesian palm oil. Malaysian export volumes more than doubled from 2015-16 (Figure 3).
Italy has also been a significant importer of palm kernel oil and oleochemicals (Figure 4), compared to other European countries.
This relatively healthy picture for the palm oil industry has been somewhat dampened by negative campaigns. In May 2016, Italy´s largest food retail chain, Cooperativa di Consumatori, banned food products containing palm oil from its supermarkets and hypermarkets.
But what about biodiesel? A few years ago, Italy seemed poised to jump on the renewable fuels bandwagon with determination. And the country does produce biofuels in reasonable quantities.
However, based on data from the European Biodiesel Board, Italy has fallen to seventh in the ranking of the largest biofuels producers in Europe (Figure 5).
All this notwithstanding, Italian demand for palm oil is projected to be robust. Much of its food processing industry depends on palm oil as an ingredient, such as in the world-famous hazelnut spread Nutella. Italy will therefore remain a formidable European market for the palm oil industry.
The global oils and fats trade proved very demanding throughout 2017. This was attributed partially to political, social and economic uncertainties. Free trade as understood and practised over the decades was twisted by new political demands in the China-US trade negotiations, as well as the European Parliament’s vote proposing an earlier exit date for palm biofuels in the RED II mandates.
Such sparring between trading nations does not augur well for the global economy and more specifically for palm oil producing nations. The tremors in the case of the latter are often felt in the very heart of smallholders. Their livelihood is impacted by decisions taken by the high and mighty, who never come face to face with the very communities compromised by their lopsided decisions.
In spite of these increasingly challenging scenarios, Malaysian palm oil mostly tracked positive results in 2017, thanks to the discipline, commitment and teamwork of all stakeholders. This was assisted by fair weather conditions. The overall Malaysian oil palm planted acreage was recorded at 5.8 million ha in 2017, a 1.3% growth of 73,160 ha compared to 5.7 million ha in 2016 (Table 1).
Crude palm oil production jumped by 2.1 million tonnes (11.9%) compared to 2016. Weather conditions improved throughout the year, especially in the second half, and this more than made up for the production shortfalls of 2016. Production of crude palm kernel oil (2.3 million tonnes) increased by 321,490 tonnes (by 16.4%) compared to almost 2 million tonnes in 2016.
Compared to 2016, palm oil production recovered in 2017, resulting in higher monthly ending stocks. December 2017 recorded a higher year-ending stock of 1.9 million tonnes compared to 1.7 million tonnes the previous year.
For palm kernel oil, the stock levels were recorded lower in the first quarter of 2017, but gradually rose in the following months. The year-ending stock was recorded marginally higher at 240,949 tonnes against 230,467 tonnes a year earlier.
In 2017, prices were higher, influenced by the slower recovery of palm oil production, the weaker Ringgit and stronger demand by major consuming countries. The annual average FOB CPO price increased by US$16.67 (2.5%) to US$678.67 per tonne against US$662 in 2016. This was also reflected in the higher export earnings of palm-based products at RM74.75 billion.
2017 saw higher exports of palm oil and its derived products. Total exports were at 23.9 million tonnes (Table 2), an increase of 680,386 tonnes (2.9%). With the exception of palm kernel cake and finished products, all other palm products registered increases in export volume. Palm biodiesel exports increased by an impressive 151,710 tonnes (181.5%), facilitated by an anti-dumping litigation against palm biodiesel ex-Indonesia.
Exports of finished products in 2017 fell by 82,801 tonnes, mainly due to the drop in soap chips imported by the Philippines, followed by the drop in shortenings, vegetable fats and vegetable ghee demand from several consuming regions.
Soap chip imports by the Philippines dropped due to higher availability of coconut oil in the domestic market that grew 7% in 2017; this narrowed the price gap between locally-produced soap noodles and imported soap noodles made from palm oil.
Increased exports of other palm products were led by palm kernel shell and palm fibre to Japan, going up from 431,154 tonnes to 478,422 tonnes; and to China, from 213,216 tonnes to 217,777 tonnes, for use in their energy sector.
Overall, Malaysia exported 16.6 million tonnes of palm oil, an increase of 513,999 tonnes (3.2%) compared to 2016 (Table 3). The top 10 importing countries purchased 9.6 million tonnes or 58% of Malaysian palm oil. Demand for Malaysian palm oil continued to be driven by strong consumption especially in countries like India, China, Pakistan, the Netherlands and the Philippines.
India retained its position for the second year running as the biggest importer of Malaysian palm oil, even though it imported 797,543 tonnes (28.2%) less compared to 2016. The uptake of more than 2 million tonnes represented 12.3% of Malaysian palm oil exports. Competitive prices of crude palm oil and processed palm oil from Indonesia impeded further inroads by Malaysian palm oil in India.
Some regions registered consistent growth for Malaysian palm oil and derived products. Overall, uptake of Malaysian palm oil showed an increase of 3.2% (513,999 tonnes), highlighted by a 7.2% increase in the Asia Pacific, 34.2% in the East of Suez, 26.3% in the West of Suez and 15.5% in Africa (Table 4).
MPOC continues to ensure that Malaysian palm oil retains a favourable global market position through its various programmes and activities that have also contributed to the improved export performance.
Our key Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar was instrumental in again creating much needed awareness among the trade; this was successfully completed in Iran and Ghana. In the US, another MPOC-branded programme held was the Global Oils and Fats Forum. These events were supplemented through a targeted outreach programme called Techno-Economic and Marketing of Palm Oil in Uzbekistan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Egypt, South Korea and China.
A number of official delegations led by the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities to key importing nations or regions (Vietnam, the Philippines, EU-28, Japan, Iran and India) assisted in enhancing exports of Malaysian palm oil.
The 2017 world production of oils and fats stood at about 219.9 million tonnes, an impressive increase of 14.3 million tonnes from 2016 (Figure 1). Palm oil and palm kernel oil jointly accounted for 74.3 million tonnes, which made up 33.8% of total oils and fats production. Soybean oil output contributed 51.5 million tonnes (24.5%) and rapeseed oil registered 24.9 million tonnes (11.5%).
Of the 87.4 million tonnes of oils and fats traded worldwide in 2017, palm oil and palm kernel oil together accounted for 60.1% (Figure 2). Malaysia retained its position as a major player in the oils and fats export market. Its palm oil exports of 16.6 million tonnes represented 33.6% of the global palm oil trade.
The IMF forecasts that China’s GDP will continue to grow this year at 6.5%, while its population will grow by 0.5% or 6.3 million to 1.4 billion. In line with this, MPOC’s supply and demand model predicts that China’s domestic oils and fats disappearance will increase to approximately 37.6 million tonnes. Palm oil import demand is projected at about 5.1 million tonnes on account of high palm oil stocks at the end of the year and projected improved soybean crushing.
In India, population growth will continue to drive oils and fats consumption. Its 2018 oils and fats production is forecast to increase to 9.9 million tonnes, which is only 4.1% more than in 2017. The country will continue to be dependent upon imports to fill the supply and demand gap. MPOC anticipates India’s palm oil imports to stand at 10 million tonnes this year.
For EU-28, MPOC estimates that oils and fats imports will increase slightly to 12.3 million tonnes. Overall, palm oil imports are projected at 7.6 million tonnes and Malaysia’s share is estimated at over 2 million tonnes.
The Middle East region should feature as a net importer of oils and fats as domestic production caters to less than 40% of projected consumption. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Iran will continue to spur demand. MPOC estimates imports of Malaysian palm oil by Turkey and Iran at 1 million tonnes on account of the favourable FTA with Turkey and removal of the palm oil import quota in Iran.
Africa, with its population of more than 900 million, will present significant opportunities for palm oil. The region is deficient in its production of domestic oils and fats and will continue to depend upon palm oil imports to satisfy its consumption needs.
MPOC estimates total oils and fats imports by the Sub-Saharan region this year to record 5.7 million tonnes, of which palm oil will account for nearly 5.1 million tonnes.
The Asia Pacific region is expected to record healthy growth demand for Malaysian palm oil, to potentially reach 3.4 million tonnes. The Philippines, Vietnam and Japan are anticipated to feature as strong markets for Malaysian palm oil and its products.
Malaysia’s oil palm small farmers have condemned a plan by British supermarket chain Iceland Foods Ltd to remove palm oil from its own brand products by the end of this year.
In a statement, National Association of Smallholders (NASH) president Dato’ Aliasak Ambia decried the move, saying it was “disrespectful and lacking factual basis”.
Iceland through this action longs for the days of colonialism where they tell us what to do from Britain, while taking away our income and our ability to feed our families, he said.
“There is a name for this – colonialism. Rapeseed and sunflower are grown largely in rich countries in Europe. Oil palm is grown in developing countries. Its major producers are all in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America,” he pointed out.
Aliasak said Iceland – a company he described as clearly living in the wrong century – should be ashamed of its “colonial-era” policy that would take food off the plates of small farmers.
He said that, unlike rapeseed oil and sunflower oil, Malaysian palm oil is sustainably produced.
“Iceland’s flimsy environmental claims are easily disproved. The latest European Union research proves that palm oil is not a major factor in global deforestation. In fact, livestock (beef) accounts for 10 times more deforestation than palm oil,” he said, with soybean accounting for more than double.
Rapeseed cultivation uses five times the amount of pesticides compared to oil palm, while growing sunflowers utilises four times more land to produce the same amount of oil.
However, he said there was no sign of Iceland attacking these commodities, which are grown in in the west.
“Double standards. One rule favouring rich countries, another rule discriminating against poorer nations,” Aliasak noted.
He also commented on a video- recording in Borneo by Iceland’s Managing Director Richard Walker, in which the moral high ground was taken while facts on the ground were ignored.
“This is not surprising. His actions literally take money out of the pocket of poor communities,” he said.
NASH, the Federal Land Development Authority, the Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association, the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority and the MPOC have set up the Faces of Palm Oil grouping in support of Malaysian smallholders.
Source: The Star, April 14, 2018
This is an edited version of the article.
China’s appetite for instant noodles flourished from the 1990s to 2013, with the market dominated by brands such as Master Kang (produced by Ting Hsin), Uni-President and Nissin at the national level, and by Baixiang, Jinmailang and Hua Long at the regional level.Read more »
A guidance note on food labelling in Turkey expressly states that the ‘palm oil-free’ claim is illegal. The guidance for the food industry, prepared by the government, is of great interest regarding the notorious ‘palm oil-free’ claim commonly used in many EU member-states.
Turkey’s interpretation should be seen as an important hint in the direction of EU authorities that continue to ignore the illegal, anti-competitive and misleading labelling of food products carrying the ‘palm oil-free’ claim.
The government of Turkey had published the updated Food Codex Regulation on Labelling in the Official Journal on Jan 26, 2017. Last July, after collaborating with different food industry associations and food business operators for more than three years, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock of Turkey published a guidance note entitled ‘Turkish Food Codex: Guidance on Food Labelling and Consumer Information Regulation’, which interprets the updated labelling rules.
The updated Food Codex Regulation on Labelling and the related guidance are part of Turkey’s efforts to bring its food law in line with EU law. Turkey has been a candidate-country since 1999. Accession negotiations started on Oct 3, 2005.
A revised Accession Partnership was adopted in 2008 and established the principles, priorities and conditions for accession negotiations. Under Chapter 12 on ‘Food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy’, Turkey committed to adopt a framework on food, feed and veterinary matters compliant with EU requirements and allowing for a complete transposition of the so-called ‘acquis’, the body of EU law.
In this context, the Turkish Food Codex Regulation on Labelling is particularly relevant. Article 50(1) states: ‘This Regulation has been prepared in accordance with the legislation of the European Parliament, taking into consideration the Regulation (EC) No. 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of [Oct] 25, 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers’ (also known as the Food Information Regulation, FIR).
Ahead of the EU
In an innovative and forward-thinking manner, the Turkish Food Codex Regulation on Labelling and the guidance note address matters that have not yet been agreed at the EU level. This concerns, in particular, specific rules on declarations on the absence of food ingredients and rules on the establishment of so-called nutrient profiles.
Particularly relevant to the infamous ‘palm oil-free’ claim is Article 7(1)(c) of the Turkish Food Codex Regulation on Labelling. It states: ‘Informing about food cannot be misleading, in particular by claiming that a particular food has special qualities, in particular, by highlighting the presence or absence of certain ingredients and/or nutrients, when all similar foods have the same qualities.’
This provision implements Article 7(1)(c) of the FIR on fair information practices, which provides that food information must not be misleading, particularly ‘by suggesting that the food possesses special characteristics when in fact all similar foods possess such characteristics, in particular by specifically emphasising the presence or absence of certain ingredients and/or nutrients’.
Article 7(1)(c) of the FIR further addresses the legal concept of misleading advertisements with certainties (i.e. ‘obvious’, ‘self-evident’ and ‘flagrantly misleading’ advertising), which has been so far mostly applied in cases of the so-called ‘clean’ labelling. Clean label claims, such as ‘additives-free’ or ‘free from preservatives’, may only be made as long as they are true and the use of additives in such foods is legal.
Since Dec 13, 2014, the FIR has required the specific vegetable oils to be indicated in the list of ingredients. Listing the generic indication ‘vegetable oils’ is no longer sufficient. Now that the specific origin of the vegetable oil must be declared, the ‘palm-oil free’ claim has become irrelevant and illegal. It is also misleading because it gives consumers the impression that food products carrying the claim have special properties that other similar foods do not.
The Turkish guidance note expressly spells out that claims such as ‘palm oil-free’ and ‘no glucose syrup’ are prohibited. The aim of the guidance is to protect consumers from being misled and to help food business operators to comply with the updated rules on food labelling that ban terms such as ‘real’ or ‘genuine’ and prevent firms from making certain claims like ‘no palm oil’. The same restrictions apply to claims used in English that are generally recognisable by consumers, such as ‘original’ or ‘natural’.
The most relevant part of the guidance on certain terms and expressions used on food labels in private practice reads as (unofficially translated):
(3) Other Negative and Positive Statements
1. Declarations on the absence of food ingredients (‘… contains no …’) other than those specified in this guideline cannot be used. Examples: ‘Sunflower oil-free’; ‘Does not contain glucose syrup’; Palm oil-free’, etc. These expressions cannot be used.
Since the guidance note implements the FIR, it should arguably not be a challenge for European food exporters to comply when supplying the Turkish market. However, EU member-states and the European Commission (EC), in their guidance to the FIR, have unfortunately not gone as far as Turkey in explicitly noting that ‘palm oil-free’ or ‘no palm oil’ claims cannot be made. Some EU food business operators might have to change their labelling to bring it into compliance with the Turkish rules and their interpretation provided in the guidance.
Egypt is among the world’s fastest growing markets for imported food and agricultural products. It is, however, a price-sensitive market that also struggles with government austerity measures, soaring youth unemployment and double-digit inflation.
Demand for oils and fats, including palm oil, is supported by growth of the food industry. The sector grew with a compound annual growth rate of almost 15% from 2011-16. Driving growth is the shift to increased production for domestic consumption and export. Consumption of oils and fats will continue to rise, due in part to population growth which is expected to surpass 100 million by 2021 and to record 117 million by 2030.
Oils and fats imports were recorded at 1.9 million tonnes in 2017, a drop of 13.2% compared to the previous year. This was mainly due to reduction of the government’s procurement under the cooking oil subsidy scheme, due to budget constraints. In 2017, the government imported 547,235 tonnes of soft oils for the subsidy programme, compared to 688,174 tonnes in 2016.
Palm oil imports rose by 23% or 180,000 tonnes to record 970,000 tonnes in 2017, compared to 790,000 tonnes in 2016 (Table 1).
The volume accounted for 51% of the total oils and fats imports (Figure 1).
Food processing sector
Consumer behaviour in Egypt has been changing in recent years because the retail prices of nearly all goods and services have increased. This has restricted the level of disposable income, which was already low. Food prices soared 40% in June 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, while food inflation reportedly reached 44% in April 2017.
The floating of the Egyptian pound, which has stoked inflation, has also pressured importers to raise the prices of goods. The government is imposing stricter rules on importers with the aim of reducing imports by 25% to save foreign currency reserves and protect local industries. A statement from the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics revealed that the price of imported oils and fats increased by 18.5% in 2017.
The value of domestic consumption of processed foods grew from US$32 billion in 2008 to nearly US$45 billion in 2017. The food processing sector is forecast to grow from 2017-21, albeit at a slower rate of 5% in terms of the local currency.
Food processors are also taking advantage of Egypt’s central location in the Middle East and North Africa to increase exports to regional markets. Its processed food products are exempted from import duty in nearly all of the Arab and African export destinations.
Egypt’s exports of processed foods earned nearly US$2.6 billion up to November 2017. Of this, some US$1.1 billion worth of goods went Saudi Arabia ($289 million), Libya ($144 million), and Jordan ($123 million). Top exports were edible oils ($397 million), processed cheese ($152 million), and sugar and confectionery ($143 million).