The country’s edible oil import rose 8 per cent to an eight-month high of 1.16 million tonne (mt) in June, even as palm oil shipments declined sharply, said Solvent Extractors’ Association (SEA), a Mumbai-based trade body, on Tuesday.
India, the world’s leading vegetable oil buyer, had imported 1.07 mt edible oil during the same month last year. In the November-June period of the 2019-20 oil year, however, edible oil import had declined 15 per cent year-on-year (YoY) to 8.05 mt, from 9.4 mt, mainly because of a fall in shipments of RBD (refined, bleached and deodorised) palmolein, SEA said. An oil year follows the November to October calendar.
“This (the import in June) is the highest in the last eight months of the oil year 2019-20,” SEA said in a statement.
Since March this year, edible oil import had been falling sharply because of the lockdown. Maharashtra had locked down a week before the prime minister announced nationwide restrictions from March 25. Lockdown in exporting countries, too, had impacted supplies.
In April and May, edible oil demand was significantly lower because of the closure of hotels, restaurants, and roadside eateries. There were also supply chain disruptions, starting from ports.
From June, when Unlock 1.0 kicked in, most parts of India started to crawl back to normal. With pipeline being empty, import of edible oil increased. A leading oil importer, however, said: “Good rabi and the forecast of better kharif crops are expected to keep imports contained in this oil year.”
Of the total import in June, palm oil’s share was 0.56 mt, while that of soft oil was nearly 0.6 mt. Import of palm oil — which comprises more than 60 per cent of total edible oil shipments — showed a decline of 18.04 per cent in June this year, from 0.68 mt a year ago.
In the palm oil segment, import of RBD palmolein declined sharply to only 3,000 tonne in June this year, from 0.25 mt a year ago.
The trade body said RBD palmolein shipments have been on the decline since the product was brought under the restricted trade category on January 8 this year.
“This is the lowest import of RBD palmolein since India allowed its import in 1994. Last year, Malaysia shipped excessive RBD palmolein to India, taking the advantage of lower duty,” it said. However, import of crude palm oil (CPO) remained high at nearly 0.6 mt, against 0.42 mt a year ago. The country also imported 10,334 tonne of crude palm kernel oil (CPKO) during the same period.
Among soft oil, import of sunflower oil increased to 0.26 mt in June, from 0.16 mt in the year-ago month, while that of soybean oil increased to 0.33 mt, from 0.22 mt in June 2019. “For the first time, the import of soft oil in June is higher than palm oil since import started in 1994; the ratio between soft oil and palm oil is 52:48,” SEA said.
During the lockdown period, the association said, there was a spurt in demand from households for consumer packs for sunflower and soybean oil, evidenced by an increase in their import by 17 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.
According to the SEA, the stock had declined in the last six months following lower domestic demand and reduced import of edible oil. As on May 1, the edible oil stock at various ports was 0.91 mt, down from 1.23 mt on April 1.
India imports palm oil mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia, and a small quantity of crude soft oil, including soybean oil, from Argentina. Sunflower oil is imported from Ukraine and Russia.