UPDATE 1-Weak rupee cuts India's Aug vegoil imports by 15 pct
* Palm oil imports down 7.5 pct m/m to 534,139 tonnes
* Refined palm oil imports fell for third month
* Soyoil imports tumble on weak seasonal demand
* Sept vegoil imports seen rising (Recasts lead, adds trade body chief's quote and details of imports)
By Ratnajyoti Dutta
NEW DELHI, Sept 13 (Reuters) - India's vegetable oil imports fell around 15 percent in August for their second straight month-on-month drop as the weak rupee made purchases dearer, a Mumbai-based trade body said, bringing some small relief on the economic front to the government.
India is the world's biggest buyer of vegetable oils and its imports cost around $10 billion last fiscal year - about 2 percent of the total value of Indian imports. New Delhi needs to curb imports as the steep fall in the rupee hikes costs and swells its current account deficit.
The rupee lost about 16 percent in value between June 1 and Aug. 31, hiking prices of dollar-denominated imported vegetable oils. At the same time, abundant rains promise ample local supply, helping to cut dependence on overseas purchases.
Imports of all vegetable oils, including non-edible oils, slid to 757,830 tonnes in August, the Solvent Extractors' Association said on Friday.
"A sharp fluctuation in the rupee value made overseas purchases dearer," said B.V. Mehta, executive director of the trade body, referring to the month-on-month drop in August imports.
India buys mainly palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia, and a small quantity of soyoil from Brazil and Argentina.
It imports about 60 percent of its annual cooking oil demand of 17 million to 18 million tonnes. Palm oil makes up about 80 percent of the imports.
In the first 10 months of the oil marketing year which ends on Oct. 31, 2013, imports have totalled 8.8 million tonnes, up 7.3 percent on a year ago.
Mehta said the imports would rise to at least 800,000 tonnes in September as the Indian currency has recovered since hitting its recent lowest level last month.
Traders said weakness in Malaysian palm oil prices would lend support to higher monthly purchases by India.
On Friday, Malaysian palm oil futures fell, putting prices on track for their worst weekly performance in six months after a forecast of rising output in Southeast Asia fanned fears that stocks of the topical oil would surge.
By the midday break, the benchmark Malaysian crude palm oil contract had lost 0.4 percent to 2,334 ringgit ($709) per tonne.
Higher costs cut total palm oil imports in August by 7.5 percent to 534,139 tonnes from the previous month, the trade body's data showed. Refined palm oil imports tumbled 33 percent to 143,215 tonnes to mark its third straight monthly drop, the data showed.
Soyoil imports fell about 46 percent in August to 127,699 tonnes on low seasonal demand and a strong production outlook given higher-than-average monsoon rains. (Editing by Jo Winterbottom and Muralikumar Anantharaman)
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