Ukraine conflict spells up to 25% sunflower oil shortage for India

Supply disruptions caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict could lead to a supply shortfall of at least 4-6 lakh tonne of crude sunflower oil for India next fiscal, a CRISIL estimate shows. which in turn, will have a bearing on the production planning of domestic edible oil processors.

For the record, refined sunflower oil constitutes ~10% of India’s consumption of 230-240 lakh tonne of edible oils (all types) annually. The country imports nearly 60% of its edible oil requirement, which makes it extremely vulnerable to adverse developments in global trade as well as oilseed production and regulatory changes in key import centres, the ratings agency said in a note.

What’s worse, as much as 90% of India’s annual crude sunflower oil requirement of 22-23 lakh tonne comes from Ukraine (70%) and Russia (20%), and the rest from Argentina and other countries, it pointd out, adding that cumulatively, Ukraine and Russia export ~100 lakh tonne of crude sunflower oil annually, with Argentina at the third place with ~7 lakh tonne.

As things stand, Russia’s major banks have been severed from the SWIFT system following sanctions imposed by the US and European nations. Although trading of food products with Russia has not been prohibited, trade settlement has become difficult, leading to supply disruption, CRIIL noted.

Domestic edible oil processors typically maintain raw material inventory of 30-45 days, which should help them tide over the supply shock in the immediate term. However, supply and prices will start hurting if the conflict — and the attendant trade disruption — prolongs.

“A protracted trade disruption will push edible oil processors to source more crude sunflower oil from Argentina. This, however, will not be enough to offset the material shortfall in volume from Ukraine and Russia. To reduce the resultant idle capacity, the processors may choose to refine other edible oils,” said Nitin Kansal, Director, CRISIL Ratings.

The supply disruption comes on the back of a 25% on-year increase in the average price of refined edible oils this fiscal. Prices of crude edible oils have run up this fiscal because of supply-side factors. For example, crude soybean oil has soared following a bad crop in Brazil, while crude palm oil flared up because of weak output in Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s top producers.

Soybean oil and crude palm oil constitute more than 75% of India’s edible oil imports. Further increases in the prices of raw materials will goad processors to raise additional debt to meet incremental working capital requirements.

The saving grace is that balance sheets of CRISIL-rated edible oil processors are healthy, with leverage1 averaging ~1.1 times, shows an analysis of 68 of them. Consequently, their credit profiles are expected to remain stable. With the geopolitical situation fluid amid Russia-Ukraine tensions, international trade, especially of edible oils, remains a key monitorable, CRISIL said.

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