ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will allow palm stearin, a fraction of palm oil produced through an industrial process used in food products, but not other palm oil as they were ‘unhealthy’ a government statement said.
“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had decided to ban the import of palm oil with immediate effect as the consumption of crude palm oil has adverse effects on public health,” the President’s office said in a statement.
“Experts in medical field and dieticians have repeatedly pointed out that the consumption of food processed using crude palm oil is a major pathogen.”
It is not clear who used crude palm oil in Sri Lanka other than refineries as a feedstock.
“However, standard palm oil varieties are used in the production of biscuits, confectionery and some bakery products,” the statement said.
“The variant bearing harmonized system code 1511.90.10 is an example. It is commonly known as Palm Stearin. There is no prohibition to the importation of this variety for use in the production of relevant food items.”
Palm stearin is a heavy, processed component palm oil, that solidifies in cooler places and has a high percentage of saturated fats, and is used to make foods and margarine.
Palm Olein, commonly used for frying is a lighter component remains liquid in at similar temperatures.
The statement did not cite any studies to show why or whther palm stearin was ‘healthier’ than alternatives such as coconut oil or palm olein, commonly used in frying.
The idea that tropical oils such as palm oil (widely used in West Africa for centuries) and coconut oil was unhealthy has been controversial.
There is a global craze now regarding refined virgin coconut oil, where Thailand is a top exporter and Sri Lanka is also joining the bandwagon.
Palm oil cultivation was is also banned in Sri Lanka. Palm oil has generally come under fire due to deforestation of rainforest in Malaysia and Indonesia destroying the habitat of Orangutan in particular. There are no Orangutan in Sri Lanka.
“Research has revealed that oil palm cultivation can lead to long-term adverse environmental effects, such as depletion of water resources and soil infertility,” the statement claimed.
The statement did not cite any studies. However it known that oil palm yields are higher in areas with higher rainfall.
In Sri Lanka’s palm oil is viable because of high taxes on coconut oil to give profits to the coconut landowner lobby.
“After the current government’s coming into power, the importation of Ethanol, which had been severely criticized in the recent past, was completely halted,” the statement claimed.
“But Ethanol is allowed to be imported for surgical purposes. The same goes for the permission to import palm stearin.”
Following the ethanol ban several domestic producers including an expropriated state sugar enterprise is making large profits. (Colombo/Apr11/2021)