* Indian soymeal to S.E. Asia at about $540/T, up 12.5 pct
* Soybean harvest seen at record 12.6m T in 2012, versus
* India's current soymeal consumption pegged at about 4 m T
By Mayank Bhardwaj
NEW DELHI, Nov 22 (Reuters) - India's 2012/13 soymeal
exports are likely to remain almost unchanged from year-ago
levels, despite a bigger crop, as farmers hold on to stocks
hoping strong domestic demand will bring them better prices,
industry officials said on Thursday.
Worries that shipments from India, Asia's biggest supplier
of soymeal, which exported a record 4.5 million tonnes in
2011/12, will not rise as initially expected, have driven up
prices of the animal feed more than 12 percent in about a month.
"Looking at the crop size, we would have been expecting
higher exports, but shipments are likely to remain nearly at
last year's level," Rajesh Agrawal, coordinator of the Soybean
Processors Association of India (SOPA), told Reuters by
telephone from the central city of Indore.
Despite a slow start to annual monsoon rains, India
harvested a record 12.6 million tonnes of soybean in 2012,
Agrawal said, up 8.6 percent from 11.6 million a year ago. His
estimate for both years was slightly below a prior SOPA
The Central Organisation for Oil Industry and Trade, another
industry body, pegs this year's output at 11.3 million tonnes,
up 6.6 percent from 10.6 million a year ago.
But farmers are building stocks instead of offloading them,
slowing exports since the new season began in October, Agrawal
Farmers in India, the world's biggest vegetable oil importer
and Asia's leading oilmeal exporter, plant soybean in the rainy
months of July and August. The harvest starts from October.
"We hope farmers will gradually start selling their stocks
and exports will pick up. India typically faces competition from
South America after February when their supplies pick up. We
must make the best out of it before supplies from South America
hit the market," Agrawal said.
Indian soymeal is currently being exported to Southeast Asia
at about $540 a tonne, including cost and freight, traders said,
up from $480 a tonne in end-October.
China, Vietnam, and South Korea are the top buyers.
DOMESTIC SOYBEAN PRICES MAY RISE
Domestic prices of soybean, which is crushed to produce
vegetable oils and meal for animal feed, may also climb as
farmers remain reluctant to sell stocks amid hopes soymeal
prices will gain on strong demand at home.
Soybean prices are at about 3,300 rupees ($59.87) per 100 kg
and many farmers believe rates will scale up to the previous
year's level of about 4,500 rupees, Agrawal said.
Changing food habits have pushed up meat consumption in
India, in turn boostING annual domestic soymeal demand 10
percent in the past two years. Current consumption is 4 million
tonnes, trade and industry officials said, up from about 3.5
million the previous year.
($1=55.1150 Indian rupees)
(Additional reporting by Ratnajyoti Dutta; Editing by Himani