(Corrects paragraph 9 to remove extraneous reference to refined palm oil)
MUMBAI, Oct 15 (Reuters) - India imported 111,163 tonnes of refined palm oil in September, a leading trade body said on Monday, an increase of 39.9 percent from August, exceeding expectations in a rise traders attributed to purchases ahead of the country's festival season.
Total vegetable oil imports in September were 993,912 tonnes, up from 897,018 tonnes in the previous month, the Solvent Extractors' Association (SEA) said in a statement.
India, the world's top importer of vegetable oils, buys mainly palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia. It also imports a small quantity of soyoil from Brazil and Argentina.
"The festive season and lower prices of palm oil also boosted the demand," said Faiyaz Hudani, a senior analyst at Kotak Commodities, referring to the Hindu festivals of Dussehra later this month and Diwali, the festival of lights, early in November, which are traditionally a time of peak consumption.
Some refined palmolein bought in earlier deals arrived last month as sellers refused to convert those volumes to the crude variant after India hiked the import cost of refined palm oil from Aug. 1, traders said.
"Some deferred refined palmolein contracts arrived last month," said Sat Narain Agarwal, a Delhi-based trader.
The Reuters survey had forecast average vegetable oil imports of 956,625 tonnes in September, with 61,250 tonnes of refined palm oils.
India's refined palm oil imports rose more than 57 percent to 1.5 million tonnes in the first 11 months of the marketing year from November 2011 after top producer Indonesia changed its tax structure in October last year.
Total palm oil imports rose last month as overseas purchases of the crude variety rose, fuelled by low prices caused by higher stocks in Malaysia, the world's No. 2 producer.
Lower prices for palm oil also widened the commodity's premium to rival soft oils such as soy and sunflower, which could cause a decline in their share of September imports, traders said in the survey.
Overall palm oil imports rose 19.18 percent to 837,417 tonnes but soyoil purchases fell 47 percent to 59,000 tonnes. Imports of sunflower oil rose about 16 percent to 80,000 tonnes in September.
Total imports of vegetable oil, including small amounts of non-edible oils, rose 10.8 percent from August to 993,912 tonnes, boosted by a surge in the import of refined palm oil. (Reporting by Meenakshi Sharma; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)