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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        19  February 2011

Hoarding issue as palm oil price skyrockets

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Possible palm oil hoarding have led the Department of Special Investigation to inspect two major refineries in Samut Prakan today.

Initial inquiries have suggested the hoarding of palm oil may be behind the recent national shortage. The DSI has raised the issue with the Commerce Ministry, which has denied any hoarding has taken place despite palm oil disappearing from many supermarket shelves for months.

DSI chief Tharit Pengdit said the department's probe was approved by the government after palm oil was found for sale at several fresh markets for 67 baht a litre following its absence from supermarkets, despite the Commerce Ministry capping its retail price at 47 baht a litre.

Mr. Tharit said the ministry had sought cabinet permission to import two lots of crude palm olein - one of 30,000 tonnes, and another of 120,000 tonnes - to ease the domestic shortage. The first lot of 30,000 tonnes was distributed to 10 palm oil refineries to produce bottled cooking palm oil. The second lot has yet to be imported.

The DSI suspected some of the 10 refineries might not have refined the imported crude palm oil, instead using it to produce biodiesel which could be sold at higher prices.

Another possibility might be that the factories were hoarding the oil, said Mr Tharit. A DSI team will today visit two factories in Phra Pradaeng district to check the quotas of crude palm oil each received, the amount of cooking oil each produced and distributed to retail stores, and the amount of palm oil stocks they have left.

The investigation's findings should help determine if any of the refineries could be held responsible for the domestic palm oil shortage, said Mr. Tharit.

DSI deputy chief Narat Sawettanan said anybody found guilty of hoarding commodity goods could face a jail term of up to two years and/or a fine of up to 140,000 baht.

"The ministry's Internal Trade Department has insisted it has not found evidence of hoarding by the refineries, but we are not convinced because there is still a severe shortage of palm oil," said Pol Col Narat.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who chairs the National Oil Palm Policy Committee, and Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwannakhiri, who oversees economic affairs, would meet the Commerce Ministry on Tuesday to seek its explanation as to why it had delayed the import of the second lot of crude palm oil. The cabinet had earlier approved the ministry's proposal to bring in 120,000 tonnes of crude palm oil from Malaysia, but the ministry delayed the import.


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ASEAN  ANALYSIS

This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs  
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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