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Palm Oil Imports by India Increase for First Time Since December

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May 14 (Bloomberg) -- Palm oil imports by India, the world’s biggest buyer, advanced in April for the first time in four months as traders boosted purchases to replenish stockpiles before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Shipments of crude and refined palm oils advanced 6.5 percent to 519,222 metric tons from a year earlier, the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India said in an e-mailed statement today. That compares with the median estimate of 550,000 tons in a Bloomberg survey. Total imports, including for industrial use, increased 27 percent to 832,760 tons, the association said.

Rising demand for the cooking oil before Ramadan, which starts in June this year, may cut inventories in Malaysia and Indonesia, the biggest suppliers. That may bolster prices in Kuala Lumpur, which have dropped 11 percent from an 18-month high in March. Communal meals during Ramadan typically boost consumption. Stockpiles in India dropped this month to the lowest level since 2011, according to the association.

“Imports have gone up because of Ramadan demand and as stockpiles were low,” Faiyaz Hudani, an associate vice president at Kotak Commodity Services Ltd., a broker in Mumbai, said by phone after the release of the April data. “May to July is the peak-import season.”

Futures traded at 2,600 ringgit ($807) a ton on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives by 3:49 p.m. local time. Prices reached 2,916 ringgit on March 11, the highest since September 2012.

Cooking oil stockpiles at ports and scheduled shipments dropped to 1.17 million tons on May 1 from 1.20 million tons a month earlier after imports fell in the January to March period, data showed. That’s the lowest for reserves since January 2011, when the association began publishing figures.

Crude soybean oil imports jumped to 113,000 tons in April from 50,999 tons a year earlier, while sunflower oil purchases surged 93 percent to 170,260 tons, the association said.

India’s total cooking oil imports dropped 2 percent to 5.16 million tons in the six months ended April, data showed. The country imports more than 50 percent of its demand, shipping palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, and soybean oil from the U.S., Brazil and Argentina.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net Ovais Subhani, Jake Lloyd-Smith

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