Dubai: Malaysia expects to grow its palm oil exports to the UAE by about 15 per cent this year as strong economic growth in the Gulf region pushes demand for edible oils higher, a senior Malaysian official said on Friday.

he UAE's imports this year would cross 400,000 tonnes compared with the 2007 volume of 354,000 tonnes, according to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).

"We can continue this kind of growth for the next few years," MPOC chief executive officer Yousuf Basiron told Gulf News.

The value of Malaysian palm oil exports to the UAE was Dh882 million in 2007, and accounted for 8.7 per cent of Malaysia's total exports to the country.

At current prices, Malay-sia is expected to earn about Dh1.67 billion from palm oil exports to the UAE in 2008.

The UAE is the GCC's biggest market for Malay-sian crude palm oil as locally-based companies import the commodity in large quantities and then supply processed products to countries in neighbouring regions.

Other important markets in the region are Iran, Turkey, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Oman is the second largest GCC, importing 96,359 tonnes in 2007, followed by Saudi Arabia at 33,736 tonnes.

Yousuf said the Middle East market is growing in importance due to strong economic growth and population increase.

"This market has a population as big as [Western] Europe. With that kind of population base and good economy, we regard it as very important. We also recognise that region is not self-sufficient in edible oils so Malaysia can be a major source," he said.

The growth in food services sector due to tourism and retail expansion is also increasing edible oil use in the UAE. Similarly, new factories making ice-creams, confectionery, snacks and body care products are being set up and they need oils in their manufacturing processes.

In 2006, the Middle East imported 2.9 million tonnes of palm oil compared with 2.5 million in 2005, according to Francis Tan of Malay-sian liquid bulk transportation firm KL Maritime.


Malaysia held a palm oil industry forum in Dubai last week in its efforts to expand its share in the local market.

Speaking at the event, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry director-general Hamad Buamim said the forum offered new opportunities for production and distribution partnerships between Malaysian exporters and local companies.

Abu Dhabi Vegetable Oil Company, International Foodstuffs Company, Areej Vegetable Oils, United Foods Company, Afia International and Al Ghurair Foods are among the top importers of edible oils.

The MPOC chief sees the price of palm oil increasing by $100 per tonne in the next six months due to higher demand.