Palm Oil Imports by India Climb as Prices Retreat on Glut

Palm oil imports by India, the world’s largest buyer, probably increased for a second month in June as a decline in prices amid increasing global cooking oil supplies spurred demand from processors and traders. Futures in Kuala Lumpur climbed to a two-week high.

Inbound shipments increased 34 percent to 680,000 metric tons last month from 505,738 tons a year earlier, according to the median of estimates from five processors and brokers compiled by Bloomberg. Imports rose 10 percent in May after declining 4.8 percent in April. The Solvent Extractors’ Association of India will release the data next week. Total vegetable oil imports, including for industrial use, gained 15 percent to 900,000 tons from 783,315, the survey showed.

Increasing demand from India may help limit losses in palm oil futures in Kuala Lumpur, which have dropped for five straight quarters. Stockpiles of the most-used cooking oil are poised to jump 21 percent to a record 9.5 million tons in 2013-2014, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. The glut may widen as U.S. soybean growers are poised to reap their biggest-ever crop when the harvest starts in September.

“Palm oil imports are rising as it is definitely cheaper and that is why you are seeing so much of olein coming in,” said Atul Chaturvedi, chief executive officer of Adani Wilmar Ltd., referring to an increase in shipments of refined, bleached and deodorized palm olein.

Narrowing Premium

Palm oil’s discount to soybean oil was at $268.21 a ton today after dropping to $253.44 a ton on June 27, the smallest since August, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Imports of RBD palm olein more than doubled to 373,837 tons in May, the highest ever, extractors’ association data show.

India, the biggest cooking oil consumer after China, meets more than half of its demand through imports. It buys palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia and soyoil from the U.S., Brazil and Argentina. Vegetable oil purchases in the seven months to May rose 10 percent to 6.2 million tons, association data showed.

Inventories, including those at ports and in the pipeline, probably tumbled to 1.55 million tons at the start of July from 1.98 million tons in June, said Sandeep Bajoria, chief executive officer of Mumbai-based broker Sunvin Group.

Palm oil for delivery in September advanced 0.9 percent to 2,397 ringgit ($751) a ton on the Malaysia Derivatives Exchange, the highest price at close for the most-active contract since June 25. Prices fell 2.2 percent in June.

Stockpile Selling

“Imports could slow in July as many farmers are selling their stockpiles now because planting has been very good this year and they are expecting a better crop,” Ashok Sethia, executive director of Sethia Oils Ltd., said by phone from Kolkata. “Crushing will pick up.”

Planting of soybeans, the main crop sown in the monsoon, climbed to 8.3 million hectares (20.5 million acres) as of July 5 from 1.9 million hectares during the same period a year earlier, the Agriculture Ministry said. The total area under oilseeds was 11 million hectares compared with 2.6 million hectares in 2012, it said.

The slump in the rupee to a record low against the U.S. dollar was unlikely to hurt imports because of sustained demand, said Govindlal G. Patel, managing partner at GG Patel & Nikhil Research Co. Cooking oil demand may surge to 23 million tons by 2020 from 17.5 million tons now, and imports will rise significantly to meet this demand, according to India’s Food Ministry.

The rupee fell 4.9 percent in June and reached a record low of 61.2125 yesterday as global funds cut holdings of Indian debt and equities.

Crude soybean oil imports probably declined to 135,000 tons in June from 139,794 tons a year earlier, while sunflower oil purchases may have risen 20 percent to 105,000 tons, the survey showed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Swansy Afonso in Mumbai at safonso2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net

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