TEHRAN, Sept 14 (Bernama) -- Iran may one day become one of the biggestimporters of Malaysian palm oil among West Asian countries.
It has the potential to absorb 400,000-500,000 tonnes of palm oil perannum, Malaysian Palm Oil Promotion Council (MPOPC) chief executiveofficer Datuk Haron Siraj said.
Besides this, its population in excess of 69 million presents a formidableconsumer base.
Last year, Iran's import of Malaysian palm oil rose 55 percent to 148,000tonnes from 96,000 tonnes in 2002," he told Bernama here recently.
In 2003, Malaysia exported two million tonnes of palm oil to West Asiancountries.
This included 565,000 tonnes imported by Egypt, making it the biggestimporter of Malaysian palm oil for the region at 29.2 percent.
The second biggest importer was the United Arab Emirates at 265,000 tonnes(14 percent) followed by Saudi Arabia at 215,000 tonnes (11.1 percent).
Iranian's rising acceptance of palm oil and the gradual easing ofrestrictions to the export of the edible oils into Iran had also attractedother palm oil producing countries to penetrate the market.
"Therefore, we need to campaign in a more sustained manner to get a majorportion of the pie. Annual promotional activities will be undertakenhere," said Haron who is in Iran for a two-day promotional drive in Tehranand a day in the historically famous city of Isfahan (Sept 14-17).
Malaysia, he said, had been working on penetrating the Iranian market foralmost seven years.
"Realising its potential, the Malaysia Palm Oil Board (MPOB) set up atechnical advisory office attached to our embassy here two and a halfyears ago," he said.
Haron said the interest to switch to palm oil among Iranians in their foodpreparation is high. This, he said was because palm oil is relativelycheaper than other cooking oils and at the same time has othercost-effective applications such as in bakeries.
Malaysian palm oil is sold by Iranian companies in this country usingwell-known local brands.
Iran, said Haron, would be used as the platform to access new markets inthe former Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and CentralAsian Republic (CAR) countries.
"Frico, one of the biggest government-linked companies in Iran, is one ofour biggest customers. It is helping us penetrate new markets includingthat of CIS and CAR countries," Haron said.
Malaysia is the world's largest producer of palm oil.
Of the 13.85 million tones it produces in 2003, only 30 percent wasconsumed domestically.