Magazine article International Trade Forum

Expanding Export Role for Developing Countries - Oilseeds and Vegetable Oils

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Expanding Export Role for Developing Countries - Oilseeds and Vegetable Oils

Article excerpt


Oilseeds, oleaginous fruits and vegetable oils form one of the largest groups of agricultural commodities traded internationally in value terms (after cereals, meat and fishery products), and developing countries play a major and expanding role in this trade, according to a new ITC publication.

World exports of these products averaged U$16.7 billion yearly over the 1985-87 period, and, if oilcakes and oilseed meals are included, the figure came to almost $22 billion. From 1980 to 1988 global production of oilseeds levelled off in response to a slowdown in demand in developed countries for edible and industrial oils and for oilseed meals and cakes used in animal feeds. However the shares of developing countries, particularly those in Asia, in world output and exports of oilseeds and oils increased in value by over 40% during the period. Their share in international trade in these products is expected to continue the upward trend.

Competition among exporting countries, as well as among oilseeds and their products, is foreseen to intensify because of abundant supplies and limited growth in consumption. Technological improvements in processing should further increase the interchangeability of vegetable oils in a variety of uses and consequently reinforce the influence of price in the choice of oils by purchasers.

The products

The products that are traded to the greatest extent internationally are the following: oil-palm based products (palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm kernel cake); soybeans, soybean oil and soybean cake; rapeseeds, including the oil and cake; sunflower seeds, and the oil and cake; coconut-based products (copra, coconut oil and coconut meal); groundnuts, along with groundnut oil and cake; and cottonseeds, and related oil and cake. The comparative importance of individual oils and oilseeds in international trade has changed considerably in recent years, with coconut, copra and groundnut now playing a less dominant role in trade than they did in the 1970s. The oilseeds traded in largest quantities now are soybean, palm, rapeseed, sunflower seed and derived products.

World trade

World exports of the leading oilseeds and oleaginous fruits averaged 35.97 million tons yearly during the period 1985-87, valued at $8.7 billion. Soybeans dominated world trade in oilseeds during those years, accounting for nearly 76% of the quantity and 64.5% of the value of these exports. The second most important product was rapeseed, which had a share of 11.5% by volume and 14.3% by value. Exports of sunflower seed and groundnuts amounted to 5.5% and 2.4% of total quantity and 9.3% and 6.5% of total value respectively. Other items making up the remaining value and volume of trade (approximately 5%) in the period were cottonseed, palm kernel, linseed, sesame seed and castor beans.

In the case of vegetable oils, world exports of the principal types averaged over 16.77 million tons yearly from 1985 through 1987, at $7.97 billion. Exports by volume and value were dominated by palm oil and soybean oil, which together accounted for 55% of total trade by quantity and 46.8% by value. Sunflower oil made up about 12% of the total export tonnage and value. Coconut oil accounted for only 8.7% of the export volume and 7.5% of export value over the period. The combined volume of exports of rapeseed and mustard-seed oils was 8.7% and of value 8.3% of the world total. Exports of palm kernel oil reached 3.6% and 3.2% of the overall figure by quantity and value respectively, while those of cottonseed oil came to 2.2% and 3.0%. Exports of groundnut oil amounted to only 2% of the total volume and value. Although comparatively small in volume terms (3.2% of the annual world average), olive oil exports were 11% of the overall value during 1985-87. Other vegetable oils of significance in international trade during that period were maize, linseed and castor oils. …

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