Indian cooking oil imports rise 23% year-over-year in March to 896,714 tonnes amid higher consumption, declining global prices, industry group says

MUMBAI, India , April 12, 2013 () – Cooking oil imports by India, the world’s second-largest buyer, climbed for the fourth straight month because of rising consumption and declining global prices, keeping reserves at a record.

Purchases of vegetable oils, including for industrial use, advanced 23 percent to 896,714 metric tons in March from 727,706 tons a year earlier, the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India said in an e-mailed statement today. Crude palm oil imports almost doubled, it said.

India’s imports, which beat a median estimate of 850,000 tons in a Bloomberg survey of five processors and brokers, may trim stockpiles in Indonesia and Malaysia, the largest palm oil producers. Prices in Kuala Lumpur plunged 34 percent in the past year on concern demand will decline. Global palm reserves will climb to a record 7.385 million tons this season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“India will need an extra 800,000 tons of edible oil every year to meet the needs of a growing population,” B.V. Mehta, executive director of the association, said by phone. “The current line up indicates that the pace of imports we have seen so far will continue in the coming months. Global prices are cheaper than a year-ago levels, promoting imports.”

Palm for delivery in May traded at 2,344 ringgit ($772) a ton on the Malaysia Derivatives Exchange at 4:56 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur. Futures dropped last month capping four straight quarters of declines in the worst run since 1999.

PALM IMPORTS

Crude palm oil imports reached 558,810 tons in March from 278,696 tons a year ago, while refined purchases fell 26 percent to 137,407 tons, the association said. Soybean oil imports slumped 53 percent to 46,990 tons, while sunflower oil fell 13 percent to 90,655 tons, it said. India buys palm from Indonesia and Malaysia, and soyoil from Brazil and Argentina.

India’s cooking oil stockpiles, including those at ports and in the pipeline, reached 2.1 million tons as of April 1 from 1.45 million tons a year ago, association data showed. The reserves will meet 45 days of consumption against the normal level of 30 days, Mehta said.

India’s monthly demand, which is about 1.45 million tons, is growing at 5 percent annually, said Sandeep Bajoria, chief executive officer at Mumbai-based broker Sunvin Group. Imports of all cooking oils may surge to a record 11.5 million tons in the year that started Nov. 1 from 10.2 million tons a year earlier, Vijay Data, president of the extractors’ association, said on Feb. 4.

Purchases in the five months to March rose 22 percent to 4.63 million tons from 3.79 million tons a year earlier, association data showed.

--Editors: Ovais Subhani, Jake Lloyd-Smith

To contact the reporter on this story: Swansy Afonso in Mumbai at safonso2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net

* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.