India's palm oil imports rose marginally to 5,90,921 tonnes in June this year, but the shipment of RBD palmolein oil showed a sharp increase, industry body Solvent Extractors Association (SEA) said on Wednesday.
India, the world's leading vegetable oil buyer, imported 5,87,467 tonnes of palm oils in June 2021.
The association also demanded the government increase the quota fixed for duty-free import of crude soyabean oil and sunflower under the Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ) system to boost domestic availability.
The total import of vegetable oils (both edible and non-edible oils) remained lower at 9.91 lakh tonnes in June this year from 9.96 lakh tonnes in the year-ago period.
The share of palm oil is about 50 per cent of the country's total vegetable oil imports.
On May 24, the government allowed the import of 20 lakh tonnes of crude soyabean oil and sunflower oil each at zero duty for 2022-23 and 2023-24 under the TRQ system.
TRQ is a quota for a fixed volume of imports at specified or nil duty, but after the quota is reached, the normal tariff applies to additional imports.
According to the SEA, "The TRQ licences are issued based on refining capacity contrary to last three years performance as notified in the first notification of 10th June 2022, leaving many actually processing companies receiving very less quota."
The association said it has asked the government to relook at this issue and suggested allocating quota as per the average of the past performance of last three years with some weightage to capacity, by giving them additional quota by increasing overall quota limit of 20 lakh tonnes each of soybean and sunflower oil.
Among palm oil products, the import of Crude Palm Oil (CPO) declined by 12 per cent to 5.07 lakh tonnes in June this year, from 5.76 lakh tonnes in the year-ago period, as per the SEA data.
However, the import of RBD (Refined, Bleached and Deodorised) palmolein rose sharply by 24 per cent to 79,264 tonnes from 3,200 tonnes, while that of Crude Palm Kernel Oil (CPKO) declined by 48.42 per cent to 3,805 tonnes from 73,77 tonnes in the said period.
"Import of RBD palmolein... jumped mainly due to high export levy on CPO and lower duty on RBD palmolein favoured Indonesian exporters to discount RBD palmolein to push RBD palmolein export," it said.
Among soft oils, the import of soyabean oil increased by 12 per cent to 2.30 lakh tonnes in June this year, as against 2.06 lakh tonnes in the same period of the previous year.
Whereas import of sunflower oil fell 32 per cent to 1.19 lakh tonnes, as against 1.75 lakh tonnes, in the said period.
According to the SEA, edible oils stock, as of July 1 this year, was estimated to have been at 6 lakh tonnes and about 16.56 lakh tonnes were in the pipeline.
During the November-June period of the 2021-22 oil year, the country's overall import of vegetable oils rose marginally at 87.60 lakh tonnes when compared with 86.74 lakh tonnes in the year-ago period.
India imports palm oil mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia, and a small quantity of crude soft oil including soyabean oil from Argentina. Sunflower oil is imported from Ukraine and Russia.