CAMEROON – The Cameroonian government is taking action against sales of “bulk” refined oil, a cheap oil widely sold on the informal local market alleged to pose health risks to consumers.
Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, the Minister of Trade, sent a letter to the palm oil refining industry urging them to comply with food safety rules comprehensively, as well as the specific regulations applicable to the sector.
“We are particularly concerned about the issue of bulk oils, the sale of which is prohibited because it poses serious health risks to consumers. I kindly request your utmost attention to this provision and invite you to comply with it, as sworn officers from various ministries and interested organizations will soon be deployed for this purpose,” he said.
Atangana noted that violators may face penalties under existing laws and regulations.
However, the move is unwelcomed by industrialists in the edible oil sector who claim that the bulk form of oil could be excess production when the refinery’s storage tanks are already full, forcing them to sell the surplus as ‘bulk.’
According to them, it could also be a deliberate choice by the industrial refinery to sell part of its production in ‘bulk, allowing not only significant cost savings in production but also quick cash flow from selling their stock.
“With this product, there are no packaging and labeling costs, as well as VAT, since this oil is generally not declared and is sold through informal channels.”
The industrialists also noted that such practices are well-known to the authorities, who have, for many years, shown administrative tolerance in the name of fighting high living costs.
Unlike refined oils that comply with regulatory standards, “bulk” oil is accessible to all budgets.
“Currently, a liter of refined oil varies between CFA1,350 and CFA1,500 whereas 1.5 liters of ‘bulk’ costs CFA1,300 “, said a local consumer.
According to some industry players, “bulk” oil is also used by certain industrialists as a market control tactic. With stiff competition in the refined oil market, many refiners rely on “bulk” oil to deplete their raw material stocks.
This allows them to avoid losing their monthly palm oil quotas allocated by the Regulatory Committee for the Oilseed Sector to competitors.
However, the government maintained that due to the weak domestic production of palm oil concerning the growing capacity of industrial players, it has not only permitted annual imports but has also instituted a quota policy for supplying raw materials to processing units.