India’s April edible veg oil imports down by 10%

Palm oil loses share to soft oils

India’s edible vegetable oil imports in April fell by 10% against March to 1.022 million tonnes, with palm oil seen ceding its share of imports to rivals sunflower oil and soybean oil, data from the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA) showed on Friday, May 12.

The monthly drop in imports comes as stock levels in India remain relatively elevated, with total port and pipeline stocks amounting to 3.37 million tonnes as of May 1, lower than the 3.45 million tonnes seen in April but still higher by 52% from the level a year ago.

Of the edible oil imports, soft oils jumped by 25.7% to 511,577 tonnes, with a larger monthly increase seen in sunflower oil imports – 68.2% - to 249,122 tonnes.

Soybean oil imports, on the other hand, rose marginally by 1.36% to 262,455 tonnes.

Romania was India’s top sunflower oil supplier in April at 77,629 tonnes, followed by Turkey at 73,400 tonnes.

Argentina remained India’s top soybean oil supplier at 219,399 tonnes, with Brazil second at 31,030 tonnes.

The increase in soft oil imports came at the expense of palm oil, with imports falling by 30% on the month to 510,094 tonnes.

Palm oil imports

Palm oil imports - consisting of crude palm oil (CPO), refined bleached deodorized (RBD) palm olein and crude palm kernel oil (CPKO) - dipped after sunflower oil cargoes priced more attractively on the back of high supply and lukewarm demand globally, incentivizing buyers to purchase more of the soft oil.

Average CIF India prices for CPO were recorded at $1,039 per tonne for April versus $1,036 per tonne for sunflower oil and $1,049 per tonne for soybean oil, according to SEA data.

The price spread a year ago ranged around $200-400 per tonne, with CPO priced lower.

On a 2022-23 marketing year (November-October) basis, however, palm oil imports continue to dominate the first half of the year, taking up 61% of total edible oil imports at 4.91 million tonnes – 52% higher compared to a year ago – against soybean and sunflower oil at 3.09 million tonnes.

This was in part caused by strong buying seen in the first few months of the marketing year, where India imported above 1 million tonnes of palm oil in November and December.

Edible and non-edible veg oil imports

Total edible oil imports for the first half of the 2022-23 marketing year came to 8 million tonnes, 22.3% higher on the year.

For April, non-edible veg oil imports came to 28,517 tonnes, 22.3% lower from March, bringing the total veg oil imports for April to 1.05 million tonnes – 10.4% lower from March but 15% higher against the same period last year.

So far, total veg oil imports for the 2022-23 marketing year came to 8.11 million tonnes, 21% higher compared to a year ago.

Shipments in the coming months are expected to moderate further amid higher local oilseed production and stock levels.

Earlier this week, the Indian government also allowed volumes of crude sunflower oil and soybean oil shipped before March 31 to be cleared under the ‘Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ)’ policy, which exempts the cargoes from import duties up until June 30.

This is expected to increase availability of the two oils in India, with about 200,000 tonnes previously stuck at ports and cargoes still on the way to India, according to the SEA.

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