Vegetable oil imports drop by 10.5% in February 2020

The import of vegetable oils in February 2020 has dropped 10.5% to 11,12,478 tonnes compared to 12,42,533 tonnes a year ago, consisting of 10,89,661 tonnes of edible oils and 22,817 tonnes of non-edible oils.

The overall import of vegetable oils during November 2019 to February 2020 stood at 45,63,791 tonnes compared to 48,62,849 tonnes, a drop of 6.1% from the year-ago period. Data compiled by the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India on the import of vegetable oils (edible and non-edible) for February 2020 reveals that after being placed on the restricted list from January 8, 2020, the import of RBD palmolein has drastically reduced in February 2020 to 33,677 tonnes.

The import of crude sunflower and crude soyabean oil, in contrast, has sharply increased as spread between palm oil and soft oil reduced to nearly $75-80 per tonne, encouraging larger import of soft oil.

The stock of edible oils as on March 1, 2020, at various ports has been estimated at 11,10,000 tonnes (CPO 5,00,000 tonnes, RBD palmolein 1,30,000 tonnes, degummed soyabean oil 2,60,000 tonnes and crude sunflower oil 2,20,000 tonnes). As on February 1, 2020, the total stock at ports and in pipelines is reported at 15,30,000 tonnes, a decrease of 2,05,000 tonnes from 17,35,000 tonnes a year ago.

The country’s monthly requirement is about 19 lakh tonnes and ordinarily operates at 30-day stock against which currently the holding stock is 15.30 lakh tonnes, equal to the 24-day requirement.

During November 2019 to February 2020, the import of refined oil (RBD palmolein) decreased to 3,00,536 tonnes from 6,47,900 tonnes a year ago. However, the import of crude oil increased and was reported at 41,50,052 tonnes compared to 39,63,912 tonnes in the year-ago period. During November 2019 to January 2020, the palm oil import has decreased to 25,45,127 tonnes (57%) from 30,70,466 tonnes (67%) during the same period of last year.

However, the soft oil import increased to 19,05,461 tonnes (43%) from 15,41,346 tonnes (33%) a year ago. This was mainly due to the reduction in spread between palm oil and soft oil, which makes the import of soft oil more viable. Indonesia is a major supplier of crude palm oil and refined palmolein at 21.08 lakh tonnes. Malaysia, Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of sunflower oil, while Argentina is the major supplier of soyabean oil to India.

Shekhar Ghosh is a communications consultant and and former journalist, who has edited and written for publications such as like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today and Outlook.

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