Palm oil imports in India reached a record 1.4M tonnes in September – more than double compared to 2020 – due to buyers taking advantage of lower duties and increased sales ahead of key festivals, Reuters reported brokers and dealers as saying.

The country’s total vegetable oil imports in September increased by 72% compared to the previous year to a record 1.8M tonnes, including more than 400,000 tonnes of refined palm oil, according to Sunvin Group chief executive Sandeep Bajoria.

“Imports jumped because of the government’s decision to lower import tax and festive season demand,” Bajoria said.

The Indian government lifted restrictions on imports of refined palm oil and also recently cut base import taxes on palm oil, soya oil and sunflower oil in a bid to control near-record price rises, Reuters wrote.

Edible oil consumption traditionally rises in the December quarter due to the start of the wedding season along with festivals such as Dhanteras and Diwali, according to the 1 October report.

Top palm oil producer Indonesia had supplied a large percentage of India’s palm oil imports in September as it was offering refined palm oil at a discount to rival producer Malaysia, a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm was quoted as saying.

Soyabean oil usually expanded its share of India’s edible oil market from October as freshly harvested soyabean supplies started to be processed, the dealer added.

However, this year’s excessive rainfall in September had delayed soyabean harvesting, while demand for local soya meal was weak due to imported soya meal being available at lower prices, he said.

In August, India had allowed imports of 1.2M tonnes of genetically modified (GM) soya meal for feed use for the first time in a bid to support the poultry industry after soya meal prices tripled in a year to a record high, Reuters wrote.

Meanwhile, sunflower oil imports in September surged 154% compared to September, while soya oil imports fell to 250,000 tonnes from 316,232 tonnes a year ago, dealers said.

Edible oil demand from hotels and restaurants had been improving as people were venturing out following a drop in new COVID-19 infections, a Mumbai-based dealer said.