India''s imports of edible oil fell by 40 per cent to 7.07 lakh tonnes in May, lowest in the month since 2011, due to sluggish demand from bulk users like hotels and restaurants which remained shut due to the COVID-19 lockdown, trade body SEA said on Thursday.
India, world''s leading vegetable oil buyer, had imported 11.80 lakh tonnes of edible oil in May 2019.
Edible oil imports have been declining since the imposition of lockdown from March 25 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The nationwide lockdown continues to be in place till June-end, with relaxations in non-containment areas.
"This is the lowest import in May month since 2011. The drop of import in April and May is mainly due to destruction in demand due to shut down of hotels, restaurants, canteens and public functions in this lockdown period," the Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA) said in a statement.
Palm oil imports, which comprise more than 60 per cent of the total edible oil shipments, declined by 52.69 per cent to 3.87 lakh tonnes in May this year from 8.18 lakh tonnes in the year-ago month.
Among palm oils, import of RBD palmolein fell sharply to 16,250 tonnes in May this year from 3.71 lakh tonnes a year ago.
Import of RBD palmolein has been declining since the product was brought under restricted trade category from January 8 this year, the SEA said.
Import of crude palm oil and crude palm kernel oil declined by 17 per cent to 3.70 lakh tonnes in May this year from 4.47 lakh tonnes in the year-ago month.
"This decline in imports of palm products have directly benefited the imports of soft oils, viz. soybean and sunflower, which is evident by their increase in imports by 7 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively, during November-May period of this oil year, thanks to household demand in consumer packs," SEA said.
Import of sunflower oil rose by 2 per cent to 1.33 lakh tonnes in May this year as compared with 1.30 lakh tonnes in May 2019, while soybean oil imports declined by 9 per cent to 1.87 lakh tonnes from 2.32 lakh tonnes in the said period.
The overall edible oil imports during November-May period of 2019-20 oil year also declined by 18 per cent to 68.89 lakh tonnes from 83.84 lakh tonnes in the year-ago period, mainly due to 76 per cent fall in shipments of RBD palmolein.
The oil year runs from November to October.
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.