Edible oil import may decline in 2008-09, says Mistry

Edible oil import may decline in 2008-09, says Mistry

New Delhi: India’s edible oil import may decline by about 300,000 tonnes in the current season because the government is expected to raise customs duties, said Godrej International Ltd director Dorab E. Mistry.

The import of edible oil is estimated to be 6 million tonnes (mt) in 2008-09, compared with 6.3mt in the previous season, said Mistry, while presenting a paper at the Indonesian Palm Oil Conference in Bali recently.

Mistry, a noted expert on edible oil, said crude soya oil import is likely to fall more than half to 300,000 tonnes while crude palm oil may be stable at more than 5.2mt. However, he said that imports during 2008-09 would depend on the level of import duties. He said the estimate was very early and “all figures for 2008-09 will change as time goes by".

“I expect the government to keep revising import duty levels as the year develops and various factors emerge... Import duties will rise as the plight of Indian farmers rises and can no longer be ignored by politicians, who will soon be focusing on their own re-election prospects," Mistry said. Soya bean farmers were unhappy as prices were too low, he said, adding they were not selling and preferred to wait.

India’s imports for the oil year 2007-08 (November-October) reached a record 6.3mt as shipments of palm and soya oil rose during September and October in anticipation of a rise in import duty.

The government had last month reimposed import duty only on crude soya bean oil at 20%, which was scrapped in April, while duty on all other oils was kept unchanged. Mistry said India began the new oil year with record high stocks of vegetable oil, estimated to be 1.02mt.

The country’s per capita consumption increased slightly in 2007-08 as a result of strong economic growth, he said, and added that the cheaper price of crude palm oil in the last quarter of 2007-08 might have stimulated consumption. Edible oil consumption is likely to rise to 13.1mt this year from 12.83mt last year. But, due to higher domestic production, import may be lower.

Domestic production is likely to go up to 7.17mt from 6.98mt if mustard oil output rises to 1.85mt from 1.65mt.

He said mustard farmers will expand the area under rapeseed this year because the memory of very high prices of last year is fresh. Rapeseed acreage in the country this year could be the second highest on record, he added.

According to agriculture ministry data, the area under mustard, a major oilseed crop in the rabi season, has gone up by 12.59% to 62,29,000 hectares (ha) till last week in the current season from 55,32,000 ha in the year-ago period.