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Monday, Aug 04, 2003

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Industry & Economy - Exports & Imports

Edible oil imports up on festival demand

G. Chandrashekhar

Mumbai , Aug. 3

EDIBLE oil imports into the country continue unabated. Arrivals in July aggregated 5.78 lakh tonnes (up from 5.36 lt in June), as per quick estimate provided to Business Line by, an industry portal.

July imports comprised broadly: 2.44 lt of degummed soyabean oil; 1.94 lt of crude palm oil; 89,000 tonnes of crude olein; 25,600 tonnes of refined palmolein; and 17,000 tonnes of crude sunflower oil.

Small parcels of refined soyabean oil and crude palm kernel oil also arrived. Because of uncertainties over the intrinsic quality and classification of crude olein, imports have suddenly declined from their high levels in earlier months.

Vegetable oil imports since the beginning of the current oil year — November 2002 to July 2003 — have totalled 39.23 lt, almost 10 lt more than the 29.72 lt imported during the same period previous year.

Palm group of oils has continued to dominate the import basket, with crude palm oil and crude olein constituting about 70 per cent of total imports. Apprehensions of large-scale imports of refined palmolein, following reduction in customs duty on April 30, have been belied.

Should trade bodies continue to demand restitution of the earlier duty differential? Many traders have either set up or leased refineries because of attractive profit margins and they all continue to import crude oils as raw material rather than refined oil.

Global oilseed crops conditions are encouraging. In USA, China and India, production prospects are bright. World palm oil output is expected to reach a new high with Malaysian contribution registering an unprecedented 13 million tonnes.

No wonder, vegetable oil prices have started to ease with demand unable to match supply pressure. Both palm and soya complexes have pared values.

The volume of imports into large markets like India will significantly shrink after September when indigenous oils will start flowing.

However, August, September and October are months of peak consumption in India with a series of festivals pushing cooking oil use manifold.

With paucity of indigenous oils, the market has to depend almost exclusively on imports.

With the landed cost declining as a result of falling international prices and firming rupee value, this season, consumers can surely look forward to friendly prices and comfortable availability of edible oil.

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