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Edible oil imports in India increased by 33% in January to 1.6M tonnes, driven by higher purchases of sunflower oil, the Economic Times reported from information published by industry body the Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA).

The volume of edible oil imports was the highest recorded since September 2021, the 15 February report said.

Non-edible oil imports in the same period dropped to nil from 18,802 tonnes, according to the SEA statement.

From November 2022-January 2023, edible oil imports increased to 4.7M tonnes from 3.6M tonnes in the same period the previous year, while shipments of non-edible oils fell to 27,129 tonnes from 63,549 tonnes.

“India's January sunflower oil imports surged to 461,000 tonnes, nearly triple the average monthly imports as top exporters Russia and Ukraine seek to reduce stockpiles,” the SEA said.

India’s monthly sunflower oil imports averaged around 1.61M tonnes in the 2021/22 oil year ended in October.

“The surge in sunflower oil and soyabean oil imports could dampen India’s palm oil imports and weigh on palm oil prices,” the association said.

The SEA said the sharp increase in refined palm olein (RBD) imports in the first quarter of the 2022/23 oil year at 600,300 tonnes, nearly 20% of total palm oil import, could affect domestic refineries.

“India's palm refining industry is heavily suffering from very low capacity utilisation due to excessive imports of RBD palm olein and getting transformed into mere packers,” the association said.

The duty difference between CPO (crude palm oil) and refined palm olein/palm oil needed to be increased from the current 7.5% to at least 15% by increasing the RBD palm olein duty from the current 12.5% to 20% without any change in CPO duty, the SEA said.