Imports of edible oils dropped by 26.89% in February 2021 and by 3.85% in the first five months of the 2020-21 oil year. Excessive imports of crude palm oil (CPO) in the previous two months and higher prices of soft oils, such as sunflower, seem to have had an impact on imports of edible oils.
As per data released by the Solvent Extractors’ Association (SEA) of India, 796,568 tonnes of edible oil were imported in February 2021 from 1,089,661 tonnes in the corresponding period of 2020; and 4,454,588 tonnes in November-February 2020-21 from 4,282,693 tonnes in November-February 2019-2020.
BV Mehta, Executive Director of SEA India, said that the CIF value for sunflower oil is now $1,765 a tonne. Characterizing it as the highest in the last 13 years, he said that imports of sunflower oil have decreased dramatically now.
The average CIF value of imported crude sunflower oil was $1,400 per tonne in February and $1,319 per tonne in January. During November-February 2020-21, imports of sunflower oil amounted to 7,70,364 tonnes (9,89,565 tonnes in November-February of 2019-2020).
He further said that there was an excessive import of palm oil during the period December-January. As a result, the stock of this commodity is on the market. The country has imported about 7,70,392 tonnes of palm oil in December and 7,80,741 tonnes in January. However, only 3,94,495 tonnes of palm oil were imported in February.
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‘Since prices have risen significantly, people are trying to operate at the lowest inventory. Earlier, they used to buy and store it for 20-30 days,’ Mehta said, adding that the high price of edible oil is lowering consumption.
Asked whether the total imports will increase in the coming months, he said that the country had imported around 13.2 million tonnes of vegetable oils in the last oil year. He stated that the nation may import at or below that level during the current year.
Giving a reason for this, he mentioned that the country has witnessed a good soya bean crop and good groundnut crop this year, and is expecting a good mustard crop as well. ‘The availability of local oil is therefore expected to increase by about 1-1.5 million tonnes this year. Because of the Covid-19 and the high price, demand is being squeezed,’ he added.
Farmers are supported by the high price. Currently, the price of soya bean is around Rs 5,350 per quintal against the MSP of Rs 3,880, and the RM seed is around Rs 5,800 against the MSP of Rs 4,650 per quintal. So farmers are getting the best price right now, he said.
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IMPORT TOTAL VEGOIL
SEA data from India showed that imports of vegetable oils (including edible and non-edible oils) were 8,38,607 tonnes in February 2021, compared with 1,112,478 tonnes in February 2020, with a decrease of 25%.
The total imports of vegetable oils during November-February 2020-2021 were 4,394,760 tonnes compared to 4,563,791 tonnes in the corresponding period of the previous year, with a decrease of 3.7%.