Palm oil imports by the world's top vegetable oil buyer are expected to stay firm in the next few months due to a drop in domestic cooking oil supplies and year-end festival demand, traders said, supporting benchmark Malaysian prices that have shed 9 percent this year.
The country's total vegetable oil imports rose 24 percent from a month ago to 1.03 million tonnes in May, data from the Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA) showed on Monday.
Imports of soyoil rose 54 percent to 174,209 tonnes, while sunflower oil imports rose to 5 percent to 178,753 tonnes.
India mainly buys palm oil from top producers Indonesia and Malaysia, and a small sum of crude soft oils, including soyoil from Latin America and sunflower oil from Ukraine and Russia.
Traders said India's monthly palm oil imports could average 650,000 tonnes until October. A delay in the onset of the annual monsoon rains this year has stoked worries about the output of soybean, India's main summer oilseed crop.
The traders expect monthly soy and sunflower oil imports to come in at 300,000-355,000 tonnes until the end of the year.
"Average imports could be around 225,000 tonnes for soyoil, while sunflower imports could be around 130,000 tonnes," said Sandeep Bajoria, chief executive of Mumbai-based trading company Sunvin Group.
Last month, the price for imported crude palm oil (CPO) averaged $876 a tonne against $934 for soyoil and $942 for sunflower, the SEA data showed. In April, CPO was quoted at $907, soyoil $974 and sunflower oil $946.
May's total palm oil imports included refined oil of 100,605 tonnes, up 24 percent from April as the import price in May was cheaper by $31 per tonne at $866.
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.- Reuters
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