MUMBAI: India’s sunflower oil imports plunged 54% in February from the prior month as shipments from the Black Sea region were hit after Russia invaded Ukraine, while palm oil imports fell 15% because of higher prices, four dealers told Reuters.
February’s lower imports could force India, the world’s biggest importer of edible oil, to step up overseas buying of palm oil and soyoil in March, boosting prices already hovering near records.
In February 140,000 tonnes of sunflower oil landed in India, down from 307,684 tonnes in January, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.
“Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, vessel loading was slow in the Black Sea region due to the tension,” said Sandeep Bajoria, chief executive of Sunvin Group, a vegetable oil brokerage and consultancy.
Ukraine and Russia account for more than 90% of India’s imports of sunflower oil.
Even in March, India’s sunflower oil imports would be less than 140,000 tonnes as loading has stopped in both nations, said Sudhakar Desai, president of the Indian Vegetable Oil Producers’ Association.
“Only a few vessels that left before the war will reach India this month,” Desai added.
The Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, a trade body based in Mumbai, is likely to publish February’s import figure in mid-March.
The country’s palm oil imports in February fell to 470,000 tonnes, while soyoil imports dropped 5.5% to 370,000 tonnes, dealers said.
Palm oil imports fell in February because of higher prices and since it was short month, said Govindbhai Patel, managing director of trading firm G.G. Patel & Nikhil Research Co.
Total imports of vegetable oil in February fell 22% from January to 980,000 tonnes, dealers said.
Imports could rebound to 1.1 million tonnes in March as more palm oil vessels are likely to land this month, Patel said.
India buys palm oil from top producers Indonesia and Malaysia, and mainly imports soyoil from Argentina and Brazil.