Man­dalay oil millers fear clo­sure un­der new FDA

The Myanmar Times - - Business - KHIN SU WAI khin­suwai@mm­times.com

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

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