UPDATE 1-India removes volume restrictions on edible oil exports

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 11:01 hrs

* Fixes $1,500/tonne floor price for exports

* Groundnut oil exports appear most viable

* Edible oil exports not seen beyond 50,000 tonnes (Adds details, quotes, background)

By Nigam Prusty

NEW DELHI, Jan 31 (Reuters) - India has allowed overseas sale of edible oils without any volume restrictions, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said on Thursday, but a floor price means only groundnut oil is likely to be exported.

India, the world's top importer of vegetable oils, used to prohibit exports of edible oils, but had allowed overseas sales of cooking oils in small packs of up to 5 kg for a year to Sept. 30, 2013, with a limit of 20,000 tonnes.

Thursday's move, which includes a minimum export price of $1,500 per tonne, will cater to the small expatriate appetite for cooking oils.

"Fixing the floor price makes groundnut oil exports the most viable among all edible oil varieties," said a Mumbai-based trader. Most other oils are currently trading below this level, which means they won't be allowed to be exported.

He said expatriate demand for locally produced cooking oils could be as high as 50,000 tonnes in the current year. But conservative trade estimates have put the edible oil exports between 10,000-20,000 tonnes.

India imports about 8 million tonnes of edible oils each year.

"We are a net importer of edible oils and the export window is not at all a viable option," said P.K. Sardar, executive director of the Central Organisation for Oil Industry and Trade (COOIT).

The main destination of edible oil exports will be the Middle East where a sizeable population of Indian origin stay.

India, the world's top buyer of vegetable oils, consumes about 16 million to 17 million tonnes of edible oils every year. It imports mainly palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia and small quantities of soft oils such as soyoil from Brazil and Argentina. (Writing by Ratnajyoti Dutta; Editing by Jo Winterbottom and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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