With imports of sunflower oil getting affected due to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, industry body SEA on Saturday said it is weighing options to source cooking oils from other countries to maintain domestic supply and keep retail prices under check.
Industry players expect prices of cooking oils to remain stable as the supply of domestic mustard oil will improve from next month. Harvesting of mustard seeds crop is about to start.
India's total imports of edible oils surged to a record Rs 1.17 lakh crore in the 2020-21 marketing year (November to October) from nearly Rs 72,000 crore in the previous year due to a sharp rise in global prices. In terms of volume, the imports were stable at 130 lakh tonnes.
"Supply of sunflower oil has got disrupted because of conflict between Russia and Ukraine. India imports 25 lakh tonnes of sunflower oil annually, of which 70 per cent comes from Ukraine, 20 per cent from Russia, and 10 per cent from Argentina," Solvent Extractors' Association (SEA) Executive Director B V Mehta told PTI.
Around 2 lakh tonnes of sunflower oil gets imported on monthly basis, he added.
There is upward pressure on rates of palm oil and soyabean oil in international markets, Mehta pointed out.
"Since our dependence on edible oil imports is to the tune of 65 per cent, we are exploring all possibilities to get edible oils from other countries to maintain our domestic supply chain and keep local retail prices stable," he added.
Mehta said that Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal held a meeting with edible oil industry players on Friday evening to take stock of the situation and explore ways to boost domestic availability.
"We gave many suggestions to boost domestic supply," he added.
"We can increase our import of palm oil from Indonesia, which is diverting a large quantity of palm oil for fuel. We can also source canola oil from Dubai. Rice bran oil and olive oil can also be imported," Mehta said.
Moreover, he said sunflower oil can be imported from Russia through a rupee-ruble agreement to avoid sanctions.
When contacted, Adani Wilmar CEO and MD Angshu Mallick said the situation will improve in the next 15 days and ruled out any increase in retail prices.
"The arrival of mustard seeds crop will start in few days. This will improve our domestic availability," he said.
Mallick said sunflower oil accounts for 10-12 per cent of India's total 220-230 lakh tonnes of annual domestic demand for cooking oils.
"65-70 per cent consumption of sunflower oil is in southern states. We need to promote the use of groundnut and rice bran oils in South India," he said.
In the western and eastern parts of India, Mallick said people interchange the use of sunflower and soyabean oil depending on the price.
India imports palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, while soyabean oil comes from Brazil and Argentina.
The government has reduced import duties on edible oils significantly over the last year to control retail prices.