India's palm oil imports nearly doubled to an 11-month high in August from a month earlier, as a correction in prices prompted refiners to ramp up purchases, five dealers told Reuters on Monday.
Higher palm oil purchases by the world's biggest edible oil importer could support palm oil futures and help top producer Indonesia in bringing down ballooning inventories.
India's palm oil imports in August jumped 94% from a month ago to 1.03 million tonnes, according to the average estimate from the five dealers with trading firms.
"Palm has become very competitive compared to soft oils. Price difference widened sharply last month," said Sandeep Bajoria, chief executive of Sunvin Group, a leading vegetable oil broker.
Crude palm oil is being offered at $1,011 a tonne including cost, insurance and freight (CIF) in India for September shipments, compared with $1,443 for crude soyoil, the dealers said.
The Solvent Extractors' Association of India, a Mumbai-based trade body, is likely to publish its import estimate for August in mid-September.
Indonesia's move to allow duty-free exports until end-October increased supplies in the market and brought down the prices, a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm said.
"In April-May, Indonesia was restricting exports. It has now been flooding the market to clear stocks," the dealer said.
The latest data from the Indonesia Palm Oil Association showed inventory stood at 6.68 million tonnes at the end of June, compared with around 4 million tonnes at the end of 2021.
Even in September, India's palm oil import could be more than 1 million tonnes, Bajoria of Sunvin said.
Soyoil imports in August halved from a month ago to 240,000 tonnes, while sunflower oil imports eased 8% to 143,000 tonnes, the dealers said.
India buys palm oil mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, while it imports soyoil and sunflower oil from Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine and Russia. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Maju Samuel)