India, the largest cooking oil consumer after China, has imported 9.69 lakh tonnes of vegetable oils in February, up 10.55 per cent from 8.76 lakh tonnes in the same period last year, industry body SEA said today.

Excessive imports in the last three months has led to a rise in stocks both at ports and in pipelines to 19.6 lakh tonnes (LT), nearly 40 days consumption requirement of the country against usual stock of 30 days, it said.

Of 9.69 LT of vegetable imports during February this year, edible oil comprised of 9.54 LT, while non-edible oils 14,999 tonnes, Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors Association (SEA) said in a statement.

The country had imported 8.76 LT of vegetable oils in February 2012, which included 8.73 LT of edible oil and 3,356 tonnes of non-edible oils.

Palm oil constitutes more than 80 per cent of the total vegetable oil shipments. Import of crude palm oil rose sharply to 6.69 LT in February from 3.59 LT in the year-ago period due to sluggish global prices, it said.

The country imports palm oil mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia, which at present have huge stock of over 7 LT. “In order to get rid of this excess stock, these palm oil producing countries are pushing aggressively their exports into India, thereby depressing local prices,” SEA said.

Palm oil imports have risen sharply because crude palm oil prices were ruling down at $ 816 per tonne last month, as against $ 1,073 per tonne in February, 2012. While refined palm oil prices were at $ 870 per tonne as against $ 1,104 per tonne in the review period, it added.

The overall import of vegetable oils rose by 22 per cent to 37.35 LT in the first four months of the current marketing year that started from November, 2012. Out of which, palm oil comprised of 31.03 LT.

(This article was published on March 14, 2013)
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