With soft oils on the boil, imports on a high

AJ Vinayak Mangaluru | Updated on October 06, 2020

More home-cooking has seen rise in use of soya, sunflower oils over palm oil

The share of soybean oil and sunflower oil in the basket edible oils imported by India is likely to go up during the current oil year (November 2019-October 2020), if the trend of last few months is any indication. Of the total import of 10.90 million tonnes of vegetable oils during the period between November 2019 and August 2020, the share of soft oils (which include soyabean and sunflower oil) stood at 5.10 million tonnes, that is 47 per cent, up from the 4.57 million tonnes or 37 per cent of the total of 12.32 million tonnes in November-August of 2018-19.

Rise in imports

In the November-August period of 2019-20, import of soyabean oil and sunflower oil went up by 13.46 per cent and 10.67 per cent, respectively.

Data available with Solvent Extractors’ Association (SEA) of India shows that the country imported 2.78 million tonnes of soyabean oil in the first 10 months of the oil year in 2019-20 as against 2.45 million tonnes in the corresponding period of 2018-19. Import of sunflower oil rose to 2.28 million tonnes as against 2.06 million tonnes last year.

On the reasons for preference for soft oils, Venkata Phani, Director of the Mangaluru-based edible oil manufacturer Sri Anagha Refineries, told BusinessLine that the HoReCa segment was affected in the post-lockdown months, and this resulted in increase in home cooking and higher demand for soyabean and sunflower oils.

Prashanth Kamath of Kamath Traders, an edible oil dealer from Mangaluru, said that nearly 90 per cent of the business of hotels and restaurants have been impacted and since more than 85 per cent of palm oil imports are used by the HoReCa segment, it has resulted in a drop in palm oil imports and share of soft oils going up in overall imports of edible oils.

Citing the customer preference for different soft oils, Venkata Phani said soyabean oil sells in the North and sunflower oil in the South. The increasing health consciousness among consumers is one reason for the increase in import of soft oils, he added.

What the future holds

Asked about the future trends for soft oils, Sandeep Bajoria, Chief Executive Officer of the Sunvin Group — brokers and consultants in the oils and oilseeds trade — said India is estimated to import 2.50 million tonnes of sunflower oil during 2019-20 as against 2.376 million tonnes in 2018-19. The import of soyabean oil is estimated at 3.4 million tonnes in 2019-20 as against 3.026 million tonnes in the previous year.

He said the import of palm oil is estimated at 7.5 million tonnes during 2019-20 as against 9.86 million tonnes in the previous year.

With the above estimates, India is estimated to import a total of 13.450 million tonnes of edible oil in 2019-20. It had imported 15.321 million tonnes of edible oil in 2018-19. The share of soft oils in the total import of edible oils during the current oil year 2019-20 is estimated to reach 44.23 per cent as against 35.46 per cent in 2018-19.


Price rally

The prices of soyabean and sunflower oils have increased by about 20 per cent since March.

According to SEA data, the CIF price of imported crude soyabean oil increased from $682 a tonne in March to $806 a tonne in August. The CIF price of imported crude sunflower oil increased from $723 a tonne in March to $882 a tonne in August. Sudhakar Desai, President of Indian Vegetable Oil Producers’ Association, explained the rally: “Due to lockdowns across the world and in India, the pipeline with dealers completely dried up. Added to this, Chinese buying of edible oils was also good.”

Published on October 06, 2020

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