The ban on import of palm oil through Kerala ports, introduced to lift the sagging fortunes of coconut growers, it seems, could not do anything to raise the market potential of coconut oil as imported palm oil through neighbouring ports reach Kerala by road costing an extra ₹3 per/kg for an average customer.
The retail prices of coconut oil and palm oil are almost equal now in the State. Further, consumers have to pay an additional charge for palm oil as it is unloaded in ports in the neighbouring States and brought to refineries in Kerala by road.
“Palm oil accounts for around 50% of the total domestic oil consumption in Kerala, which will come roughly around 20,000 tonne per month. We used to import crude palm oil through the Mangaluru port and bring it to the refinery in Kozhikode by road. It has led to an additional charge of ₹3 per kg of palm oil being sold in Kerala. Besides, Kerala ports are losing substantial business,” says Mohammed Ali, MD of Parisons Oil Group.
Though the ban has been imposed to protect the interest of coconut farmers in Kerala, it does not have any noticeable results, says Munshid Ali, secretary, Kerala Exporters Forum.
If the State government wants to protect the interests of coconut growers, it should extend more support to the farmers. Banning palm oil through Kerala ports will not do anything good for them. Further, coconut oil is now brought from neighbouring States to meet the demand in Kerala, says Mr Ali.
The pandemic had dealt a blow to the tender coconut industry in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in the past two years and now oil extracted from matured nuts is flooding Kerala market.
The import stats of palm oil through the neighbouring ports also reveal the growing popularity of palm oil in local markets. The import of palm oil through the neighbouring ports of Mangaluru, Chennai, and Tuticorin has seen an average increase of 2-4 lakh tonne before COVID-19 and an average of 2 lakh tonne after COVID-19 compared to the imports before the ban.
Now, the Kerala Exporters Forum has given a representation to Minister for Commerce Piyush Goyal requesting to lift the restrictions imposed on the import of palm oil through the ports in Kerala.