India's palm oil imports in September more than doubled from a year ago to a record 1.4 million tonnes as buyers increased purchases of refined palm oil ahead of key festivals and to take advantage of newly lowered duties, brokers and dealers said.
Higher purchases by India, the world's biggest buyer of vegetable oils, could support palm oil prices that are trading near a record high hit earlier this week.
The country's total vegetable oil imports in September jumped 72% from a year ago to a record 1.8 million tonnes, including more than 400,000 tonnes of refined palm oil, Sandeep Bajoria, chief executive of Sunvin Group, a vegetable oil broker, said.
"Imports jumped because of government decision to lower import tax and festive season demand," said Bajoria.
India lifted restrictions on imports of refined palm oil and slashed base import taxes on palm oil, soyoil and sunflower oil in recent months as New Delhi tries to cool near-record price rises.
Edible oil consumption usually jumps in the December quarter with the start of the wedding season as well as festivals like Dhanteras and Diwali.
Top palm oil producer Indonesia supplied a big chunk of India's palm oil imports in September as it was offering refined palm oil at a discount to number two supplier Malaysia, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.
Usually soybean oil expands its share of India's edible oil market from October as freshly harvest soybean supplies get processed, the dealer said.
"This year, excessive rainfall in September has delayed soybean harvesting. Besides, demand for local soymeal is weak since imported soymeal is available at lower prices," he said.
New Delhi in August allowed imports of 1.2 million tonnes of genetically modified (GM) soymeal for the first time to help the poultry industry after soymeal prices tripled in a year to a record high.
Sunflower oil imports in September surged 154% from a year ago 170,000 tonnes, while soyoil imports fell to 250,000 tonnes from 316,232 tonnes a year ago, dealers said.
The Solvent Extractors' Association of India, a Mumbai-based trade body, is likely to publish import number for September in mid-October.
India could import 1.2 to 1.3 million tonnes of vegetable oil in October and from November imports could moderate to 1 to 1.1 million tonnes, said another Mumbai-based dealer.
Demand from hotels, restaurants have been improving as people are stepping out with a drop in new coronavirus infections, the dealer said.
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