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India Aug vegoil imports hit record on soyoil surg

India Aug vegoil imports hit record on soyoil surg

NEW DELHI: India's vegetable oil imports in August touched a record 1.3 million tonnes, a trade body said, helped by the highest ever soyoil imports on expectations of a poor soybean harvest.

The country's imports of soyoil were the highest in two decades at 350,373 tonnes in August, up 14.5 percent from the previous month.

Traders said expectations of a lower soybean harvest after a poor start to the monsoon season in India led importers to contract higher quantities of soyoil in the first half of the season.

Soybean, the main oilseed crop of the world's top importer of vegetable oil, is sown with the spread of the June-September monsoon rains over the growing areas of central India.

"Soyoil imports are likely to decline from September as production prospects for soybean have improved due to a revival of the monsoon in the second half," said Sandeep Bajoria, the chief executive of Mumbai-based trading company Sunvin Group.

Last month's imports were the highest in any single month since 1994, when India adopted an unrestricted overseas purchase policy for edible oils, the Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA) said in a statement on Monday.

"India's edible oil imports will be a million tonnes each until October," said B.V. Mehta, executive director of SEA.

India mainly buys palm oil from top producers Indonesia and Malaysia, and a small quantity of crude soft oils, including soyoil from Latin America and sunflower oil from Ukraine and Russia.

India, also the world's leading palm oil importer, could buy around 800,000 tonnes each in the remaining two months of the current year to October, Bajoria said. India's vegoil year runs from November to October.

Half of India's annual demand of 17-18 million tonnes of cooking oil is met through palm oil imports, while it buys about 1 million tonne each of crude soy and sunflower oil.

The record purchases were aided by a 22.4 percent rise in palm oil imports to 805,131 tonnes from the previous month, as higher stocks in the producing nations made imports of the tropical oil attractive.

Traders said improved global supply prospects for soyoil and higher global palm oil stocks, particularly in the world's No. 2 producer Malaysia, kept prices down last month.

In August, imported palm oil averaged $754-$759 per tonne, cheaper by $73-$75 from the previous month, while soyoil import was $33 cheaper at $897 tonnes and sunflower oil quoted at $854 tonnes, down $58 from July.

Last month, sunflower imports stood at 140,349 tonnes, up by a quarter from the previous month as demand for the low density cooking oil improved with the start of the festival season.

India's festival season starts from August and peaks in October, when the South Asian country celebrates Diwali, the festival of lights.- Reuters