Palm oil imports in June rose to reach the highest level in six months on robust demand from refiners for upcoming festivals, while sunflower oil imports surged to a record level, a leading trade body said on Thursday.

Higher palm oil purchases by India, the world's biggest importer of vegetable oils, could help leading producers Indonesia and Malaysia bring down stocks and support the benchmark Malaysian palm oil futures.

Palm oil imports rose about 3 per cent in June from the previous month to 786,134 metric tons, the highest since December, the Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA) said in a statement.

Palm oil has been trading at a discount to soybean oil and sunflower oil for many weeks, encouraging refiners to increase purchases for upcoming festivals, said a New Delhi-based dealer with a global trade house.

Crude palm oil imports were offered at about $954 a metric ton, including cost, insurance and freight (CIF), in India for June delivery, while soyoil and sunflower oil were offered around $1,049 and $1,065 a ton, respectively, the SEA said.

Imports of soy-oil in June fell nearly 15 per cent to 275,700 tons and sunflower oil imports gained 13.4% to a record 465,647 tons, with total vegetable oil imports up 1.4 per cent to 1.55 million tons, the SEA said.

Sunflower oil usually holds a premium of more than $100 per ton over soybean oil and palm oil, but since it was trading at a discount in April, Indian refiners placed orders for June shipments, the dealer said.

India buys palm oil mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, while it imports soyoil and sunflower oil from Argentina, Brazil, Russia and Ukraine.

Sunflower oil imports in July will fall since it is no longer at a discount to rival oils, but palm oil imports will jump to 850,000 tons due to the recent correction in prices, said a Mumbai-based trader.