MPOB receives “encouraging business enquiries” at New York Fancy Food Show

By Manik Mehta

NEW YORK, June 27 (Bernama) -- The Washington-based office of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), which participated in America’s just-concluded three-day prestigious New York Fancy Food Show (NYFFS), received a steady stream of visitors to its pavilion at the show, many of whom were curious onlookers though there were also many who meant “serious business”.

“We did get several technical enquiries from visitors to our pavilion, for instance, about the use of palm-shortening from bakeries in Orland, Florida while another promising enquiry came from a manufacturer of peanut butter whose texture and shelf-life can be improved with the use of palm oil. 

“Also, palm oil is used for frying plantain chips, as is done in some Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, Dominican Republic, etc. Palm oil is also processed into Toco-Sorb gel tablets which are consumed as supplements,” explained Fairus Hidzir, the MPOB’s regional manager, in an interview with Bernama at the NYFFS.

Amid the ongoing hype over health foods, there is a strategic attempt in some quarters in the United States (US) to put olive oil, coconut oil, others ahead of other edible cooking oils. This exacerbates the competition against palm oil whose image has been somewhat projected as an environmentally harmful product.

Fairus tried to correct what he described as “wrong perception” about palm oil in some quarters. 

“We are promoting palm oil as natural oil.  In the past, we may have not highlighted the natural characteristics of palm oil.  Palm trees are not short-lived … they are there for 25 years.  Palm oil in its natural form contains a lot of vitamins and other nutritional elements.  Palm oil’s vitamin E is known as tocotrienol, a synonym for vitamin E … it has more antioxidants than other edible oils,” he noted.

According to the MPOB, the palm oil volume imported into the US from around the world amounts to some 1.5 million tonnes.  Malaysia’s palm-oil exports to the US is about 500,000 tonnes.

The US also imports palm oil from other countries, notably Indonesia, Thailand and others.

While coconut oil is making advancement in the US market, thanks to some reports about its health benefits, Fairus seemed unperturbed by this development. 

“The production and supply of coconut oil are limited.  Besides, coconuts are not grown everywhere,” he said.  Palm can be cultivated on just one-tenth of land compared to the land area used in the production of other sources of edible oil.

Asked to explain the nature of his participation at the NYFFS, considering the MPOB does not itself sell palm oil to buyers, he replied: “We are educating and informing a specialized audience and updating them on related issues such as sustainable and environmental-friendly production of palm oil.

“Malaysia’s palm oil is produced without creating or causing deforestation issues because Malaysia’s palm oil plantations were established in former rubber plantations. Our networking here helps generate future business and creates a positive image for Malaysia’s palm oil.”

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s top two palm-oil exporters. 

The MPOB, which also serves as a neutral conduit overseeing the industry and trade, helps prevent any issues arising between Malaysian suppliers and their foreign customers. 

“We ensure that Malaysian palm-oil supplying companies comply with regulations. Malaysian companies have to comply with the mandatory sustainable standards for the entire palm-oil industry. Our emphasis is on environmental sustenance,” Fairus added.

The MPOB’s general manager pointed out that Malaysia’s palm-oil policy does not allow conversion of forests into palm-oil plantations. 

Indeed, starting next year, it will be compulsory in Malaysia to produce only sustainable palm oil whereby the government does not allow deforestation or activity considered damaging to the environment.

The MPOB also maintains contacts with the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oil (ISEO) in Washington DC, as well as the National Institute of Oil Seeds Products (NIOSP) and the Institute of Food Technology, both of which are located in Chicago.

The US is the world’s eighth largest buyer of Malaysian palm oil and palm-oil based products.

India is the world’s biggest buyer of Malaysian palm oil, followed by the European Union, China, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam.


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