Palm oil imports by India, the world’s largest buyer, probably jumped to the highest in three months in May as local supplies fell amid expanding demand.
Purchases increased 9.3 percent to 750,000 metric tons last month from 685,877 tons a year earlier, according to the median of estimates from five processors and brokers compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the most since 785,915 tons bought in February, according to data from the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, which will release the data this week. Total cooking oil imports, including for industrial use, gained 1.5 percent to 910,000 tons, the survey showed.
Palm oil rallied to a two-month high in Kuala Lumpur last week on speculation that a pick up in demand for the commodity used in everything from biofuels to noodles ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in July may help trim stockpiles in Malaysia. India’s imports may be sustained at about 725,000 tons this month and next to meet festival demand, said Sandeep Bajoria, chief executive officer of Mumbai-based Sunvin Group.
“Local crushing of rapeseed and soybean has declined as farmers are holding back the crops on expectation of higher prices,” Ashok Sethia, executive director at Sethia Oils Ltd., said by phone from Kolkata. “This reduced oil supplies. In April, imports were down, so that was compensated for in May.”
Palm oil shipments in April declined 5 percent, while total cooking oil imports slumped 29 percent, according to data from the extractors’ association. The decline cut inventories, including those at ports and in the pipeline, to an estimated 1.4 million tons at the start of June from 1.8 million tons in May, Sethia said.
India, the world’s biggest cooking oil consumer after China, meets more than half of its demand through imports. It buys palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia and soybean oil from the U.S., Brazil and Argentina.
Palm oil for delivery in August fell 0.5 percent to 2,440 ringgit ($773) a ton on the Malaysia Derivatives Exchange at 1:44 p.m in Mumbai today. Futures reached 2,471 ringgit on June 7, the highest price since March 25.
“Palm oil imports will remain around 725,000 tons levels in June and July each as traders stock up before the festival season in August,” Sandeep Bajoria, chief executive officer of Mumbai-based Sunvin Group, said by phone. “The rupee has had a big fall, creating problems for importers and bookings have slowed a bit as traders wait for the levels to stabilize.”
The rupee fell to a record against the U.S. dollar today, weighed down by an unprecedented current-account deficit, the slowest economic growth in a decade and speculation the dollar will gain if the U.S. scales back monetary stimulus.
Crude soybean oil imports probably climbed to 70,000 tons in May from 62,500 tons a year earlier, while sunflower oil purchases may have declined 44 percent to 70,000 tons from 125,200 tons, the survey showed.