India’s veg oil imports jump by 31% in January

Soft oils make up for the biggest share, with an increase of 85.5%

India’s vegetable oil imports in January surged by 31% against a year ago and by 6.2% on the month to 1.662 million tonnes, data from the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA) showed Wednesday, February 15.

Of the edible oil imports, soft oils saw a substantial increase of 85.5% on the month to 828,083 tonnes, with crude sunflower oil taking the majority share at 461,458 tonnes – 50% higher than last year and 138% more against December.

Sun oil cargoes in January were expected to surge following delays in shipments from Ukraine – 135,879 tonnes in January versus 24,286 tonnes in December – via the Black Sea grain corridor.

Sun oil volumes from Russia came in second at 105,210 tonnes, while Bulgaria placed third at 57,692 tonnes.

Attractive prices were also another reason for the higher volume of arrivals, with both Ukrainian and Russian sellers seeking to reduce stockpiles.

Crude soybean oil imports also increased in January by 45% compared to December at 366,625 tonnes, though the level was 6.3% lower from a year ago.

Argentina remained India’s top soy oil seller at 207,751 tonnes, with Brazil next at 150,374 tonnes.

The rise in soft oil imports came at the expense of palm oil shipments, with imports (consisting of crude palm oil (CPO), refined bleached deodorized (RBD) palm olein and crude palm kernel oil falling in January by 24.8% compared to December to 833,667 tonnes, though the level was still higher compared to a year ago by 50.7%.

Palm oil imports

The narrower spread between soft oils and palm oil also factored in the higher share of imports, with the spread lowering from around $325-330 per tonne in December to $295-300 per tonne on average in January.

On a 2022-23 oil marketing year (November-October) basis, however, palm oil imports continued to dominate in the first quarter, taking up 65% of the import share at 3.085 million tonnes, while soft oils were at 1.662 million tonnes.

The share of RBD palm olein also grew in the first quarter of the 2022-23 oil year by 192% against last year to 632,400 tonnes, as an attractive import duty difference against CPO-supported olein buying versus importing CPO for domestic refining.

Edible oil imports for the first three months of the new oil year came to 4.75 million mt, 31.6% higher against the same period a year ago.

For January, zero non-edible oil imports were reported, as local oils were seen cheaper than imports.

Shipments in the coming months are expected to be moderate, with stock levels remaining elevated amid the high import volume and increased domestic soybean crush.

A bumper rapeseed harvest is also expected to offset some demand for veg oil imports, with rapeseed production expected to increase 7.1% on the year to a record 12.8 million tonnes, the Indian government said earlier this week.

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