India saw more than two-and-a-half times increase in import of refined palm oil at 17.12 lakh tonne in the last 11 months due to lower prices in Indonesia, industry body SEA said on Thursday.
The country had imported 6.28 lakh tonne of refined palm oil (RBD palmolein) in the year-ago period. The oil year runs from November to October, it said.
India, the world's leading vegetable oil buyer, imported 130.1 lakh tonne of vegetable oils during the November-September period of the ongoing 2021-22 oil year, 4 per cent higher than the year-ago period.
Palm oil shipments comprise 50 per cent of the total vegetable oil imports.
According to the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA), Indonesia had reduced customs duty on refined palm oil while keeping the tariff on crude palm oil (CPO) higher till three months back. This encouraged Indonesian exporters to push refined palm oil shipments at discounted rates, it said.
This led to an increase in India's import of RBD palmolein and quantities have risen sharply in August and September, it added.
As a result, the country's CPO imports have declined to 52.37 lakh tonne during the November-September period of the 2021-22 oil year, when compared with 68.64 lakh tonne in the year-ago period, it added.
But the overall palm oil imports have declined to 70.28 lakh tonne during November-September as against 76.27 lakh tonne in the year-ago period.
Whereas import of soft oils like soyabean and sunflower have increased to 56.35 lakh tonne as against 44.58 lakh tonne during the comparable period, the SEA data showed.
During the November-September period of this year, Malaysia supplied 28.13 lakh tonne of CPO and 11.61 lakh tonne of RBD palmolein, while Indonesia supplied 17.15 lakh tonne of CPO and 11.61 lakh tonne of RBD palmolein.
The industry body said that the sharp fall in global prices of edible oils in the last five months has led to a decline in domestic prices as well. This has provided great relief to consumers during the current festival period.
However, the price fall has also led to a drop in domestic oilseed prices, very near to the minimum support price level, which is a cause of concern to the government, industry and farmers, it said.
"In absence of futures trading and hedging facility, importers of palm oil and soybean oil suffered heavy financial loss during the last 3-4 months. There is an urgent need to allow futures trading at least in international commodities like crude soybean oil and CPO and hedging facility for soybean to boost the export of soybean meal," the SEA said.
Also to support the domestic market, the SEA has appealed to the government to consider increasing in import duty on CPO and RBD Palmolein by at least 10 per cent to support the farmers to receive a remunerative price for their produce during the harvest 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.