Palm oil exporting countries have been asked to treat Indian palm oil refiners as comrades and not as adversaries.

Speaking at the CEO Forum of Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar 2021, which was organised by Malaysian Palm Oil Council on a digital platform, Atul Chaturvedi, President of the Solvent Extractors’ Association (SEA) of India, said exporters and importers need to start a campaign to promote guilt-free eating of palm oil by Indian consumers to get a bigger space in the Indian kitchens.

Stating that port-based refineries are the gatekeepers in deciding which edible oil can come into the country, he said refined palm oil is pushed into India through skewed duty structure by the exporting nations. Indian refineries and associations would fight to ensure that imports remain restricted as it affects their existence. “My suggestion is to treat palm oil refiners as comrades and not adversaries,” he said.

Mentioning that a greater chunk of soft oils goes into the household consumption than the palm oil, he said the growth of soft oils in the last decade was the direct consequence of interest shown by refiners.

He said India imported around 8.8 million tonnes (mt) of edible oil in 2009-10. Of this, the share of palm oil was around 6.49 mt (70 per cent). The country imported 14.91 mt of edible oil in 2018-19.

Of the 13.2 mt of edible oil India imported in 2019-20, the share of palm stood at 7.2 mt (55 per cent).

He said around 33 per cent of palm oil is going to HoReCa (hotels, restaurant, catering) segment. It is important to note that if the pricing is not right, the HoReCa segment is not going to be a very big buyer.

Domestic production

The exporters of palm oils will face more headwinds by the growth of other domestic edible oils. The huge influx of domestic edible oil available in the future months will not allow Indian importers to build up inventories. This would have sobering impact on imports, he said.

Actually, the country is expecting mustard crop closely to be around 10 mt, which will be more than 2 mt higher than last year. High local prices coupled with higher domestic production may arrest the growth witnessed in the imports in the last decade, he added.