Matryoshkas .. from Russia with love

The Palm Oil Trade Seminar (POTS) series, which debut at Moscow back in 2010, has seen a bigger entourage this year. This time, the delegation from Malaysia totaling 30 people was headed by the Plantation Industries & Commodities Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas. MPOC director of marketing Faudzy Asrafudeen put in a lot of effort to make sure the exhibition and business-to-business meetings met their respective targets.

Russia, which has a population of more than 140 million people, is an emerging market for palm bakery fats and deep fry oil.

While Russians are familiar and comfortable with homegrown sunflower oil, the food industry there is getting acquainted with the culinary flexibility of palm oil and its nutrition.

In between interviewing stakeholders of the Russian oils and fats industry and celebrity status vegetable oil analysts Thomas Mielke and Dr James Fry, there was break time of a few hours for us to visit the Red Square, located near the hotel we stayed in. 

The roads in Moscow are very wide; six lanes on either side. In order to get to the other side of the road, one must use the underground passage way. There were many little tuck shops scattered throughout the well-lit and ventilated maze of tunnels.

When we finally got to Red Square, we saw a lot of matryoshkas or Russian stacking dolls displayed on moveable carts. 

I learnt that these "must buy" item on the gift list of most tourists visiting Moscow are made from the same tree so that the dolls respond to heat and humidity uniformly. 

Carving and painting these dolls is an elaborate affair, with the artisan having to ensure that all the dolls are precisely sized. 

The dolls must fit together and the shell of every doll should be thin enough to accommodate the dolls that are inside. These dolls usually range from a set of three to 24.

I tagged along with KL Maritime Sdn Bhd managing director Richard Goh and Palm Oil Refiners Association of Malaysia (Poram) chairman Wan Mohd Zain Wan Ismail in exploring the local arts and culture shops. 

These gentlemen proved to be good bodyguards [against potential pickpockets] and excellent bargain hunters :)