India's palm oil imports jumped 29.21 per cent to 90.80 lakh tonnes in the first eleven months of the ongoing 2022–23 oil year, compared to the year-ago period, with RBD Palmolien shipments rising fast, posing a serious threat to the domestic refiners, industry body SEA said on Friday.
India, the world's leading vegetable oil buyer, imported 70.28 lakh tonnes of palm oil products during the same period in the the previous oil year.
Meanwhile, the country's total vegetable oil imports rose 20 per cent to 156.73 lakh tonnes during the November–September period of the 2022–23 oil year, from 130.13 lakh tonnes in the year-ago period.
In September, however, the country's vegetable oil imports witnessed a 5 per cent decline, dropping to 15.52 lakh tonnes from 16.32 lakh tonnes in the same period the previous year.
"During November 2022 and September 2023, the import of palm products increased sharply due to price parity. The share of palm oil increased to 59 per cent," the Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA) said in a statement.
However, crude palm oil imports got a little setback against soybeans and other oils, totalling 7.05 lakh tonnes in September this year, down from 8.24 lakh tonnes in the previous month, it added.
The palm oil basket includes RBD Palmolein, Crude Palm Oil (CPO), Crude Olein, and Crude Palm Kernel Oil (CPKO).
According to the SEA, despite ample domestic availability, a sharp drop in domestic edible oil prices has pushed demand, as reflected in the August and September data.
The SEA also noted that per capita consumption has increased with falling domestic edible oil prices in recent months.
"The import of RBD Palmolein has surged, constituting over 25 per cent of total palm imports. This surge has severely impacted the refining industry, which is grappling with massive overcapacity," it added.
The overall refined oils (RBD Palmolein) imports reached 20.53 lakh tonnes during the November–September period of the 2022–23 oil year, up from 17.12 lakh tonnes in the year-ago period. This is seriously affecting the workings of the domestic palm oil refining industry, according to the SEA.
In the case of soft oils, the SEA said inbound shipment of sunflower and soybean oils sharply increased in the last six months. The overall import during the first eleven months of the current oil year stood at 63.87 lakh tonnes, compared to 56.35 lakh tonnes in the year-ago period, the SEA said.
As of September 1, there was a stock of 37.35 lakh tonnes of vegetable oils at various ports and in pipelines.
India imports palm oil mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia and a small quantity of crude soft oil, including soyabean, from Argentina. Sunflower oil is imported from Ukraine and Russia.