Import of edible oils increased by 28.02 per cent in July compared with June following a sharp rise in the shipments of RBD palmolein and soyabean oil.

Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA) data show that India imported 12.05 lakh tonnes (lt) of edible oil in July 2022 against 9.41 lt in June 2022. The country’s import of edible oil was at 9.17 lt in July 2021.

BV Mehta, Executive Director of SEA, said international prices of edible oils have fallen sharply in the past two months. Palm oil is down by $625 a tonne, soyabean oil by $370 a tonne and sunflower oil by $450 a tonne.

He said the local price has also moved in downward tandem in the last two months. The wholesale price of RBD palmolein has been reduced by over ₹25,000 a tonne, refined soyabean oil by ₹24,000 a tonne and sunflower oil by nearly ₹20,000 a tonne.

However, he said, the depreciation of the rupee since March and high freight for palm oil shipments partially restricted passing on these benefits to importers and consumers.

India’s import of RBD palmolein increased to 43,555 tonnes during July against 13,895 tonnes a year ago and crude palm oil (CPO) import went up to 4.80 lt in July (4.51 lt in July 2021).

Import of RBD palmolein increased to 11.44 lt in the first nine months of the oil year 2021-22 (November to October) from 43,271 tonnes in the corresponding period a year ago. He said the import of RBD palmolein during the first nine months of the oil year 2021-22 is mainly due to Indonesia’s high export levy on CPO and lower duty on RBD palmolein. This favoured Indonesian exporters to discount RBD palmolein to push its export. RBD palmolein constitutes 12 per cent of the total import of edible oils which was just half a per cent last year. This impacted the import of CPO.

He said Indonesian palm oil is currently under pressure due to burgeoning stocks. Indonesia lowered its threshold for applying export tax on CPO to reference price of $680 a tonne, down from $750 a tonne previously.

Soft oils

The overall import of palm oil (including both CPO and RBD palmolein) decreased to 48.61 lt during November-July against 56.15 lt a year ago.

Import of soft oils such as soyabean oil and sunflower oil increased to 48.34 lt in the first nine months against 37.55 lt in year-ago period.

Mehta attributed this growth to the higher import of soyabean oil at 33.30 lt against 22.30 lt.

India imported 20.72 lt of crude soyabean degummed oil from Argentina, 8.85 lt from Brazil, and 1.59 lt from the US.

India’s import of crude sunflower oil stood at 15.03 lt during November-July against 15.24 lt in year-ago period.

The overall import of sunflower oil from Ukraine was 8.42 lt (prior to March). There was no supply of sunflower oil from Ukraine from March onwards following its war with Russia.

However, he said, Russia and Argentina have turned to be major suppliers of sunflower oil to India now. India bought about 1.55 lt of sunflower oil in July, mainly from Russia (50,336 tonnes) and Argentina (91,627 tonnes).

The current price spread of nearly $350-400 a tonne between soft oils and palm oil encourages the larger import of palm oil in spite of the 5.5 per cent duty payable on the import of CPO. High prices have, apparently, motivated Indian farmers to push soyabean plantings above expectations this year, regardless of the still unusually large old crop stocks, Mehta said.

Overall veg oil

The overall import of vegetable oils (including both edible and non-edible oils) stood at 12.14 lt in July against 9.80 lt a year ago, a growth of 24 per cent. This included 12.05 lt of edible oils and 9,069 tonnes of non-edible oils.

The overall import of vegetable oils during first nine months of the oil year was 99.74 lt against 96.54 lt a year ago.