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India’s vegetable oil imports increased by 21% to 8.1M tonnes (81.10 lakh tonnes) in the first six months of the current marketing year, driven by increased shipments of refined palm oil, Business Line reported.

The world’s leading vegetable oil buyer, India’s oil marketing year runs from November to October.

Vegetable oil imports in the first six months of the previous marketing year totalled 6.7M tonnes (67.07 lakh tonnes), the 12 May report said.

According to industry body the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA), the volume of refined palm oil imports was a cause of concern.

“The increase in imports of RBD palm olein in the first six months of the current oil year reported at 11M tonnes (11.01 lakh tonnes) is nearly 22% of total palm oil imports, depriving the domestic industry of capacity utilisation,” the SEA was quoted as saying.

To address the problem, the SEA has proposed that the duty difference between crude palm oil (CPO) and refined palm oil needs to be increased from the current level of 7.5% to at least 15%, by imposing an additional 7.5% tariff on RBD palm olein, according to the report.

Meanwhile, India’s vegetable oil imports in April at 10.5M tonnes (10.50 lakh tonnes) were 10% lower than the previous month’s total of 1.1M tonnes (11.72 lakh tonnes).

Due to increased shipments of RBD palm olein, palm oil’s share of India’s total vegetable oil imports increased from 49% to 61%, while soft oil imports had declined in the first six months of the current year, Business Line wrote.

Palm oil imports – both crude and refined – increased to 4.9M tonnes (49.09 lakh tonnes) during the November-April period of the 2022/23 oil year from 3.2M tonnes (32.25 lakh tonnes) in the same period the previous year due to price parity, the report said.

Although total import of soft oils – sunflower and soyabean oils – remained lower at 3M tonnes (30.92 lakh tonnes) in the first half of the current oil year, shipments of both vegetable oils had seen a sharp jump, the SEA said.

As of 1 May, edible oil stocks were estimated at 3.3M tonnes (33.74 lakh tonnes) at various ports, slightly lower than the previous month’s total of 3.4M tonnes (34.47 lakh tonnes).

India imports palm oil mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia, with a small quantity of crude soft oil, including soyabean oil from Argentina. Sunflower oil is imported from Russia and Ukraine, according to the report.