MUMBAI: India’s palm oil imports rose by 11.6% in May from the previous month to reach the highest level in four months as its discount over rival oils led to higher purchases, a trade body said in a statement on Thursday.

Higher palm oil purchases by India, the world’s biggest importer of vegetable oils, could support the benchmark Malaysian palm oil futures.

India’s palm oil imports rose to 763,300 metric tons, the highest since January, the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA) said.

Imports of soyoil fell about 16% to 324,016 tons and sunflower oil imports jumped 75% to 410,727 tons, with total vegetable oil imports up 16% at 1.5 million tons, the SEA said.

Soyoil prices jumped recently due to supply disruptions in leading producers Argentina and Brazil, while sunflower oil prices rose due to falling supplies from the Black Sea region, said B.V. Mehta, executive director of the SEA.

Palm oil prices were largely steady, which made palm oil attractive for Indian buyers, he said.

Crude palm oil’s imports were offered at about $951 a metric ton, including cost, insurance and freight, in India last month, while soyoil and sunflower oil are offered around $1,000 and $987 a ton, respectively, the SEA said.

“As palm oil’s discount widens further, it becomes even more attractive for Indian buyers. In June, India could buy more than 750,000 tons,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trade house.

Palm oil rises to track higher rival softs and crude

Soyoil imports could fall below 300,000 tons in June since its prices have rallied by more than $60 per ton in a fortnight, he said.

India buys palm oil mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, while it imports soyoil and sunflower oil from Argentina, Brazil, Russia and Ukraine.

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