Palm oil imports to India, the world's biggest buyer, rose in November by 29% from the previous month as steep discounts to rivals soyoil and sunflower oil made purchases lucrative for local refiners, a trade body said on Wednesday.
Imports last month were 1.14 million tonnes, more than double from a year earlier, the Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA) said in a statement.
Higher Indian imports would help top producer Indonesia cut its inventories and support benchmark Malaysian palm oil prices, which have nearly halved from this year's record highs.
Palm oil shipments for November were much cheaper than soyoil, which prompted refiners to switch to palm oil from soyoil, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trade house.
For November shipments, buyers mostly placed orders in October, when palm oil was nearly $500 per tonne cheaper than rival soyoil as Indonesia was trying to reduce its stockpile, dealers said.
India's overall vegetable oil imports in November rose 10.6% to 1.55 million tonnes, the SEA said.
Soyoil imports fell 31% to 229,373 tonnes last month, while sunflower oil imports rose 8.8% to 157,709 tonnes, it said.
India buys palm oil mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, while it imports soyoil and sunflower oil from Argentina, Brazil, Russia and Ukraine.
Vegetable Oil Imports Increase
Palm oil's share of India's vegetable oil imports jumped to 75% in November.
But the share may decline in coming months because of its narrowing discount to rival oils and as temperatures are drop in India because of the winter season, said a New-Delhi based dealer with a global trading house.
India's palm oil imports usually moderate during winter as it solidifies at lower temperatures.
Crude palm oil is being offered at $975 a tonne, including cost, insurance and freight (CIF), in India for January shipments, versus $1,300 for crude soyoil, the dealers said.