Vegetable oil imports jumped 75 per cent to a record high in the last three years on the back of huge discounts of palm products. The earlier record of 10,00,942 tonnes was set in August 2010, according to Solvent Extractors’ Association data.

In January, the country imported 11,57,130 tonnes of edible oils against 6,59,979 tonnes in the same period last year. The shipments consisted of 11,32,631 tonnes of edible oils and 24,499 tonnes non-edible oils.

Usually, soft oil imports are preferred during the winter season in India, as they remain liquid at room temperature. Oil produced from corn, sunflower and canola are considered soft oils.

However, the price difference of $300-350 a tonne between palm products and other oils pushed up import of palm oil during this winter, said Association’s Executive Director B.V. Mehta.

Besides, Malaysia and Indonesia have been offering attractive discounts to reduce their palm oil inventory of over 6 million tonnes. In the last one year, RBD palmolein has fallen by $235 a tonne, or 22 per cent, while crude palm oil dipped by $244 a tonne or 23 per cent. On the other hand, soft oil prices remained more or less at last year’s levels.

RBD palmolein and crude palm oil imports in January were booked at $856 a tonne ($1,091 a tonne) and $798 a tonne ($1,041 a tonne) in January. Crude soyabean and crude sunflower oil were imported at $1,207 a tonne ($1,206 a tonne) and $1,248 a tonne ($1,180 a tonne).

In the last one year, the rupee depreciated by 6.33 per cent or Rs 3.23 against the dollar. A weaker rupee has almost negated the benefit of lower prices for Indian importers.

Import of non-edible oils doubled to 24,499 tonnes (12,286 tonnes) in January.

YEAR-ON-YEAR TREND

The overall import of vegetable oils in three months of this oil year was up 27 per cent at 27,66,088 tonnes against 2,185,254 in the same period last year.

Import of refined oil (RBD palmolein) was up 11 per cent at 3,67,054 tonnes (3,31,124 tonnes). Share of refined oil was at 14 per cent, while crude oil accounted for 86 per cent at 23,25,300 tonnes (17,98,967 tonnes).

Overall, palm oil imports increased by 27 per cent to 22,98,473 tonnes (18,04,421 tonnes) between November and January, while that of soft oils moved up 21 per cent to 3,93,881 tonnes (3,25,670 tonnes). Non-edible oils import between November and January was up 34 per cent at 73,734 tonnes (55,163 tonnes).

suresh.iyengar@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 14, 2013)
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