India’s overseas purchases of palm oil hit an all-time high in January as leading producers Indonesia and Malaysia made their exports attractive by varying tax levels. But imports have been falling since then as India retaliated in the second half of January with a duty on crude palm oil purchases. In April, refined palm oil imports soared 84.5 percent to 253,489 tonnes, keeping the fall in overall palm oil imports limited to 30 percent at 498,960 tonnes, Mumbai trade body the Solvent Extractors’ Association said on Tuesday.
Refined palm oil imports rose as the spread with the crude variant narrowed to $15-20 in April as against $30-35 in March. Imported refined palm oil is currently quoted at $845 per tonne on the country’s west coast, while the delivered price for crude palm oil is $825 per tonne. “A small spread with crude oil led to the almost doubling of refined palm oil imports,” said B.V. Mehta, executive director of SEA.
Imports of vegetable oils, including non-edible oils, fell by almost a third to 654,827 tonnes in April, led by the drop in palm oil imports, the data showed. The trade body also lowered last month’s total imports figure in the statement to 889,415 tonnes due to a downward revision in non-edible oil imports.
“Huge stockpiles and new rapeseed crop kept the monthly palm oil imports down,” said Pradip Desai, managing director of Mumbai-based broker Palmtrade Services Pvt Ltd. India’s total stocks of edible oil at the start of April were a record 2.1 million tonnes, or nearly 45 days of consumption against the usual stock of a month’s needs.
But due to the lower palm oil imports, the total stocks of cooking oil stood at 1.8 million tonnes at the end of April, down 14 percent from the previous month, the SEA data showed. India buys mainly palm oils from Malaysia, Indonesia and a small quantity of soyoil from Brazil, Argentina. India imports about 60 percent of its cooking oil demand of 17 million tonnes, with palm oil’s share at about 80 percent.
For the half year to April, India’s vegetable imports rose about 13 percent to 5.3 million tonnes from a year ago, on track to surpass last year’s record purchases. India’s vegetable oil year runs from November to October. Soyoil imports rose 8.5 percent in April to 50,999 as some delayed cargoes from South America arrived. Sunflower imports fell 2.5 percent to 88,368 tonnes as the start of summer cut appetite for fried foods.