India’s edible oil imports declined by 17 per cent during the first five months of the oil year 2023-24 (November-October). A hike in the price of palm oil in the past few weeks was one of the reasons for this decline. Palm oil was expensive than sunflower by more than $70 a tonne in the international market.

Data available with Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA) showed that India imported 57.65 lakh tonnes (lt) of edible oil during November-March of the oil year 2023-24 against 69.80 lt in the corresponding period of 2022-23, registering a decline of 17.41 per cent.

Total edible oil imports stood at 11.49 lt during March 2024 against 11.35 lt in March 2022-23, registering a growth of 1 per cent. Record quantity of import of sunflower oil during the period added to this growth.

Lower output

Terming palm oil as the current price leader, BV Mehta, Executive Director of SEA, said lower production and stock of palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia in the last few weeks resulted in short supply.

Stating that the third month future at BMD crossed 4,400 ringit per tonne, he said C and F price of crude palm oil (CPO) was quoted at $1,045 a tonne in India on April 5, while crude sunflower oil was available at $975 a tonne and crude soyabean oil at $1,025 a tonne. This led to shift in demand from palm oil to soft oils.

Rising sunoil shipments

This is evident from the fact that a record quantity of sunflower oil was imported in the last two months at 2.97 lt in February and 4.46 lt in March, he said. Overall, India imported 13.52 lt of sunflower oil during November-March 2023-24 against 11.17 lt in the corresponding period of the previous oil year.

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Import of soyabean oil to India stood at 8.82 lt during the first five months of the oil year 2023-24 against 14.63 lt in the corresponding period of 2022-23.

Palm oil vs soft oils

The ratio between palm oil (including CPO and refined oil) and soft oils tilted in favour of soft oils during March. Nearly 58 per cent of the import was soft oils and 42 per cent was palm oil.

Import of refined palm oil also reduced to 94,000 tonne in March from 1.25 lt in February. The overall import of refined palm oil was slightly lower at 8.87 lt during November-March 2023-24 against 9.89 lt in the corresponding period of the previous oil year. India imported 48.78 lt of CPO during November-March 2023-24 against 59.91 lt in November-March 2022-23.

Overall stock a tad lower

As on April 1, the stock of edible oils at various ports was provisionally estimated at 5.90 lt and pipeline stock at 17.25 lt. With this, the total stock was reported at 23.15 lt as on April 1 against to 23.77 lt as on March 1.

Major exporters

During the first five months of the oil year 2023-24, Indonesia exported 13.28 lt of CPO and 8.05 lt of RBD palmolein. This was followed by Malaysia at 10.92 lt of CPO and 80,627 tonnes of RBD palmolein.

In case of crude soyabean de-gummed oil, India imported 4.50 lt from from Argentina, and 3.29 lt from Brazil. India imported 4.90 lt of crude sunflower oil from Russia, followed by 4.86 lt from Romania, 1.65 lt from Argentina, and 1.24 lt from Ukraine.