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Global Vegetable Oil Shortage Expected

Cooking oil, which includes several vegetable oils, are all expected to be in shorter supply over the next few months. The most utilized vegetable oil, palm oil, has gone up 50 percent, and canola oil is up by about 55 percent.

Every restaurant and most consumer kitchens use vegetable oils. Major food companies use vegetable oils to make both dry and baked goods. Pasta, chocolate, cookies, and mayonnaise all contain vegetable oil.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, director of Dalhousie University’s Agri-food Lab, tracks agriculture, agribusiness and food distributions systems globally. He says the impending global vegetable oil shortage is a perfect storm of weather and political events. Charlebois says cooking ingredients like canola oil, sunflower oil and palm oil tend to be taken for granted, and shortages of those things always take us by the most surprise.

“Vegetable oil is probably the ingredient thing we take for granted, but it’s in many, many food items we buy. Because of everything that’s going on right now, it’s the perfect storm. There’s the Ukrainian conflict impacting sunflower oil. And with palm oil, palm oil is in many, many different products we buy every single day. And Indonesia’s decision to halt exports is quite problematic. Things are much tighter.”

Canada, the world’s largest canola grower and exporter, is feeling the effects of last year’s poor crop. The Prairie provinces, where the vast majority of canola acres are grown, had the crop cut sharply by drought last year and much of that region continues to suffer from dry weather. Canola reserves are so low that Canada has had to import canola products to meet its own demands.

“I don’t believe it has happened before, which really points to how critical the situation is. And if you’ve looked at some of the growing conditions in Alberta and Saskatchewan things are still quite dry. And canola requires a lot of moisture. So far, its not looking great.”

Then there is soybean oil. It’s hoped the U.S. and Canada can produce a large crop this year because the situation in South America does not look promising. Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil have all experienced major droughts with resulting poor production in recent years.

“Soybean oil is another key ingredient, exported a lot around the world. But, again, we are expecting production to be impacted by continuing droughts in South America. So, supplies are going to be very low.”

So, according to Sylvain Charlebois, many items on your favorite restaurant menu will also cost more in the near future.

“In the restaurant industry in Canada we do use a lot of vegetable oil, and it’s the same in the United States. So, we are expecting restaurant operators to have to pay way more for their vegetable oil.”

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