Cooking oil export returns climb 62pc on high prices

Cooking oil

A customer shops at a supermarket in Nyeri town. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi I Nation Media Group

Cooking oil makers earned 62 per cent more on exports of the commodity in the second quarter of the year due to the essential commodity’s steep rise in cost.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows the value of 31,960 tonnes of animal and vegetable oil exports hit Sh8.32 billion between April and June this year.

A record high

This is a sharp increase from the Sh5.13 billion earned from 26,000 tonnes of the product that were exported just months earlier between January and March.

This comes as prices of cooking oil have hit a record high this year amid a biting global shortage of palm, sunflower, canola, soybean, and cottonseed oil.

Kenya is a net importer of vegetable oil but processes and exports a significant share of the product to its neighbours and beyond.

Vegetable oil imports hit 210,724 tonnes during the quarter, up from 207,764 tonnes in the previous quarter.

Kenya brings in crude palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, which it processes locally into cooking oil and a wide range of products including soaps and beauty products.

While the quantity of cooking oil imports increased by just 1.42 per cent, the value of imports increased by 23.5 per cent from Sh34.5 billion to Sh42.7 billion during the period underlying the prevailing high prices of the product.

The value of imported animal and vegetable oils went up from Sh26.0 billion in Quarter 2 of 2021 to Sh42.7 billion reflecting an increase of 64.5 per cent, KNBS said.

Cooking oil prices have risen to a record high as local demand continues to beat supply.

For instance, the 210,724 tonnes that were imported in the three months to June is a 29 per cent drop from the 295,684 tonnes imported during the same period in 2020 underlining supply shortage.

This has forced local makers of cooking oil to raise prices with a litre of cooking oil now retailing at between Sh350 and Sh480 depending on the brand.

Covid-19 restrictions

Increased demand for the product comes amid a strong recovery of the food business, the largest consumer of cooking oil.

The food and accommodation sector was heavily hit by the Covid-19 restrictions imposed in 2020 but bounced back to grow by 90.1 per cent in the second quarter of last year.

However, the sector’s growth slowed down in Quarter 2 of this year growing by 22 per cent.