Mandalay oil millers fear closure under new FDA
COOKING oil millers in Mandalay are asking the Food and Drug Administration under the Ministry of Health to relax the rules that govern their trade, saying that the red tape could put them out of business.
They told a workshop in the city organised by the Mandalay Traders, Brokers and Millers Association late last week that FDA requirements that will soon come into force would have a serious impact on their survival. The new rules will introduce added restrictions in six areas including the quality of finished products and the working environment.
Millers have asked for a three-year grace period before the new measures come into effect.
There are about 300 oil millers in Mandalay, of whom only three carry FDA certification, while the others have been unable to meet the criteria.
“Most oil millers in Mandalay will be put out of business if the FDA goes ahead with these rules,” said U Aung Swe Hein, the association secretary. “With FDA approval, we can distribute throughout the country. Without it, we can only sell to customers in our own region and we would have to close.”
Miller U Aung Than told workshop participants that under the FDA rules, oil millers cannot operate within the compound of their home. This is the biggest problem with the new rules, he said.
“Oil tanks have to be located at least 50 feet from a toilet, but some of our members are working from home, or in a very small area,” he said.
“When the industrial zone opened in Mandalay, other industries received land to run their businesses, but our oil millers didn’t get any. They had to stay downtown.”
U Aung Than said he had been running an oil mill for more than 30 years. “From 1980 to 1984, I milled and sold peanut and sesame oil. When the government permitted edible oil imports, I sold that too. Then the peanut oil industry ran into problems and I sold one of my two oil mills. I couldn’t run the other one because I could not find the labour.”
Cheap imports of edible oil are increasingly squeezing local millers out of the market, he said. “It’s true that if edible oil imports continue, the local peanut oil industry will not survive.”
Imported peanut oil is sometimes cut with cheaper oils such as palm oil. Last year the FDA said it would take action against sellers of fake peanut oil and would test products by taking samples and announced last September that 10 peanut oil brands had been found to be selling fake, substandard or blended oils.
For U Aung Than, producing quality oil is more important than locating factories away from housing settlements. “In Mandalay, in my opinion, if oil millers work properly, they can produce 100 percent peanut oil wherever their mills are located. The FDA should ease its specifications.
In 1988 about 5000 tonnes of edible oil was imported, a figure that has now risen to 40,000 tonnes, enough to threaten the domestic oil production industry, said miller U Ko Gyi. The workshop discussed trade measures and remedies for the peanut oil industry, including a possible tax increase for imported edible palm oil, restrictions on edible oil imports, and higher taxes on peanut exports. Myanmar exports peanuts to China, leaving a shortage of raw materials.
‘Most oil millers in Mandalay will be put out of business. ’
U Aung Swe Hein Mandalay Traders, Brokers and Millers Association