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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        24  February 2011

Cautious optimism in stores as rationing eases

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Consumers are feeling slightly less worried about the palm oil shortage after some leading retailers have begun allowing them to buy more than one bottle of cooking oil per visit.

Retailers also appear more confident that new supplies will reach their stores soon after Commerce Ministry allowed imports of another 30,000 tones of crude palm olein. Of the 5.2 million blue-capped bottles of cooking oil to be offered for sale at low prices, half had been produced and the rest would be ready this week.

Next week, refiners can make palm oil in pink-capped bottles for distribution to consumers. The ministry has told retailers to sell palm oil in unlimited quantities but some may have their own policy to ensure wide distribution.

Phattaraphorn Phenpraphat, the vice-president for marketing and public relations of Central Food Retail Co, said the supply of cooking palm oil would improve at all of the company's Tops supermarkets in the next week. From today, bottled oil will be displayed on all store shelves. In the past few weeks, palm oil disappeared from Tops because the Commerce Ministry ordered producers to distribute goods directly to its own distribution points.

Kitipong Thunmchutapong, general manager at The Mall Group, said it would no longer limit purchases to ai its supermarkets to one bottle per family.

"During the past few weeks, we had an inventory of cooking palm oil enough for one month of sales, but it was sold out within two weeks," he said.

Thai Edible Oil Co, the producer of King brand rice bran oil, is supplying all retail stores as usual.

"Whenever our bottles of rice bran oil are put on retail shelves, they are all taken by consumers right away. That's why our products are so scarce and off the shelves in a short period."

Normally, palm oil represents 70 percent of the cooking oil market for household consumption, soybean oil 20 percent and rice bran oil and others 10 percent. Last year, total household cooking oil consumption was around 900,000 tonnes.

The company said King rice bran oil prices had not changed from 54 baht per one-litre bottle for regular oil and 105-120 baht for premium oil, depending on retail promotions at each time. In a related development, Singapore-based Wilmar Trading Pte has won the bid to supply a new lot of 30,000 tonnes of crude palm olein to Thailand.

The oil is expected to reach Thai ports within five top seven days to refine into cooking palm oil to be sold at the capped price of 47 baht (US$1.60) a litre.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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