New Delhi: India's palm oil imports rose by 25 percent to 6,82,274 tonnes in March against the year-ago period due to cheaper shipments from Indonesia and Malaysia, Solvent Extractors' Association (SEA) said on Wednesday.
However, the country's palm oil imports could reduce in the coming months as Malaysia has reimposed 4.5 percent export duty on crude palm oil (CPO) from April 1 and Indonesia too is planning to do the same soon, it added.
India, the world's leading vegetable oil buyer, had purchased 5,45,875 tonnes of palm oil in March last year.
Palm oil make up 70 percent of the country's total vegetable oil imports. India meets 60 percent of its annual vegetable oil demand of 17-18 million tonnes via imports.
According to the SEA, palm oil imports have risen as Indonesia and Malaysia had zero export duty on palm products for the last five months to clear surplus stock amid reduced global demand of CPO for bio-diesel production.
"Also, high prices of soybean and lesser realisation for soyabean oil and soyabean meal in export market has resulted in lower crushing and lesser oil availability in domestic market, leading to to higher imports," it said in a statement.
Global prices of palm oil products have been ruling downward for the past one year, while rupee too has depreciated by 2.5 percent against the US dollar, it added.
Among palm oil products, import of CPO has increased by 45 percent to 6,16,402 tonnes in March this year, from 4,24,937 tonnes in the year-ago, while that of refined palm oil (RBD Palmolein) declined by 54 percent to 51,576 tonnes from 1,12,140 tonnes during the period under review.
Among soft oils, import of soyabean oil rose marginally to 1,91,150 tonnes in March from 1,69,150 tonnes, sunflower oil increased to 1,61,346 tonnes from 97,900 tonnes, while rapeseed oil shipments were 18,264 tonnes in the said period.
SEA said that the country has imported nearly 2 lakh tonnes of rapeseed oil in last five months due to attractive prices. The market expects that India may import over 4 lakh tonnes of rapeseed oil this year.
The country's total vegetable oil imports increased by 26 percent to 10,53,034 tonnes in the March this year 8,35,424 tonnes in the year-ago period.
For November-March period of 2014-15 year, vegetable oil imports increased to 53,53,184 tonnes as against 43,32,231 tonnes in the year-ago period.
India imports palm oil mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia and a small quantity of crude soft oils, including soyabean oil, from Latin America. Sunflower oil is imported from Ukraine and Russia.