* Vegoil imports could reach 11 mln T in 2012/13 -industry
* Malaysia's nil tax pushes India's palm oil imports
* Over three-fifths vegoil demand to be met via imports
(Adds details, quotes, background)
By Ratnajyoti Dutta
NEW DELHI, Feb 14 (Reuters) - India's vegetable oil imports
soared 27 percent from a month ago to an all-time high in
January on purchases of cheap palm oil, a trade body said,
raising the prospect for further curbs on cheap imports from
Indonesia and Malaysia.
India, the world's top vegetable oil importer, could buy as
much as 11 million tonnes in the year to October - well above
recent averages of 8-9 million tonnes - if the government does
not restrict palm oil imports, the head of the top industry body
said on Thursday.
Malaysia, the world's No. 2 producer of palm oil, made
exports duty-free from Jan. 1, and Indian buying soared until
New Delhi slapped on import duties mid-month to protect local
"Imports could be 10.5-11.0 million tonnes if the current
trend of unabated cheap imports continues in the absence of any
corrective steps by the government," B.V. Mehta, executive
director of the Solvent Extractors' Association, said in an
As India's population grows in size and wealth, demand for
cooking oil is rising at about 5 percent a year. Consumption hit
16.7 million tonnes in the marketing year ended Oct. 31 and
could rise to as much as 17.5 million tonnes in 2012/13, Mehta
New Delhi tries to encourage local production of oilseeds,
partly by guaranteeing minimum prices to farmers, but has had
limited success. For this year to end-October 2013, imports are
likely to meet 63 percent of demand, up from recent averages of
India's vegetable oil imports rose to 1.2 million tonnes
last month, with palm oil imports surging 13 percent on the
month to a record 893,313 tonnes, the trade body's latest data
showed. Palm oil accounts for about 80 percent of total imports.
Trade bodies have been demanding that the import duty on
crude edible oil should be raised to 10 percent, while refined
oil imports should be taxed at 20 percent, ensuring at least a
10 percent duty differential between the two variants to protect
domestic oilseeds growers and refiners.
"A zero export duty regime in Malaysia pushed palm oil
imports to a record level," said Sandeep Bajoria, chief
executive of the Mumbai-based Sunvin Group, an importer of
The record imports could worsen on India's current account
deficit, which hit 5.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)
in the September quarter and, according to some analysts, could
reach nearly 8 percent in the December quarter.
India has taken to taxing imports to protect domestic
oilseed growers and crushers from aggressive pricing by Malaysia
and rival Indonesia, the world's biggest palm oil producer.
India also buys a small quantity of soyoil from Argentina and
New Delhi applied a 2.5 percent import duty on crude palm
oil during the second half of January to try to curb imports.
Traders said palm oil prices were $30 per tonne lower in the
first half of last month as a result of Malaysia's decision to
remove export duties.
Imported refined palm olein averaged $812 per tonne CIF in
December, while delivered CPO price averaged $739 a tonne.
Bajoria said lower crushing of soybeans and expectations of
an imminent import duty also supported the record purchases.
Soyoil and sunflower oil imports also jumped last month. The
soft oils are preferred during the winter season, when demand
for fried foods at wedding feasts surges. Palm oil tends to
solidify at lower temperatures.
Soyoil imports rose by nearly five times to 103,033 tonnes
last month, while sunflower imports nearly doubled to 130,285
tonnes from the previous month.
(Editing by Jo Winterbottom and Jane Baird)