The holy month of Ramadan is around the corner. Muslims all around the world have been awaiting this month eagerly; they do that every year. This month signifies fasting; eating less than the normal. It helps shed unwanted fat, fight diseases, and attain spiritual strength through purification of the system achieved as a result of weight loss. However, the Muslims, particularly those in Pakistan, are determined every Ramadan to defeat the noble purposes of fasting. In this month, consumption of oily and greasy foods increases manifold creating tremendous pressure on the market and pushing the prices up. People eat the stuff in this month which normally they avoid for health reasons like samosas, pakoras all deep-fried and fried bread called paratha.

The plain logic suggests that during the holy month, believers should be saving their hard-earned money, but they end up overspending far exceeding their income. The economics of Ramadan falsifies the plain logic every year. Businessweek has reported that Pakistan, the world’s third-biggest importer of palm oil, will increase purchases of the vegetable oil and rapeseed from overseas this year as demand climbs during the holy month of Ramadan, a refiners’ group said.

Imports of palm oil may climb to as much as 1.85 million metric tons from 1.75 million tons in 2009, Rasheed Janmohammad, vice chairman of the Pakistan Edible Oil Refiners Association, said in a phone interview from Karachi. Incoming shipments of rapeseed may jump 20 percent to 1.2 million tons, he said.

Palm oil has rallied 14 percent from a seven-month low on July 7 on optimism consumption will increase in Asian nations, which mark festivals in the September quarter, and on concern that weather may disrupt output in Indonesia and Malaysia, the biggest producers. Imports may beat forecasts if Pakistan’s cotton crop is damaged by the recent floods, said Janmohammad.

“Demand is quite good in view of Ramadan and most mills are short of stocks,” he said yesterday. “August will see strong imports and buying will only slow in the third quarter.”  Pakistan’s deadliest floods in eight decades may lower the country’s farm production by more than the 15 percent estimated by the nation’s agriculture chamber of commerce, Luigi Damiani, senior emergency and rehabilitation coordinator at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said on Aug. 3.

October-delivery futures added 1.1 percent to 2,590 ringgit ($817) a ton on the Malaysia Derivatives Exchange yesterday, the highest close since April 9. India last year overtook China as the biggest buyer of the tropical commodity.

Pakistan imported 231,000 tons of refined palm oil in July, compared with typical monthly purchases of 125,000 tons, Janmohammad said. Imports in August may be 175,000 tons, he said.

A reduction in tax on purchases of crude palm oil to 8,000 rupees a ton from 9,000 rupees announced June 5 has helped refiners operate their plants at higher capacity than before, Janmohammad said. Pakistan, which consumes about 3 million tons of vegetable oils, buys palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia, and rapeseed from Canada, Australia and Europe. Cotton and sunflower seeds are the main sources of the nation’s local cooking oil supplies.

“Rapeseed import deals have slowed in the past two weeks after prices shot up because of suspected damage to crops in the Black Sea region and Europe,” Janmohammad said. “We covered a lot of our needs at the right time.”

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