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NEW DELHI : Nearly 30% Indian households have switched to buying cheaper edible oil alternatives or even unbranded oils in the past year to compensate for volatile cooking oil prices, according to a report.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has further fuelled uncertainty in edible oil prices with Ukraine being a key global supplier of sunflower oil.

“Rise in prices of edible oils is forcing some of the low- and middle-income households to opt for cheaper and low-quality oils," community social media platform LocalCircles said in a report on Monday.

A survey conducted by LocalCircles received more than 36,000 responses from households across 359 districts. The respondents comprised 63% men and 37% women. Among the respondents, 43% belonged to tier 1 cities, 31% from tier 2, and 26% were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts.

Local prices of edible oils surged between 50% and 100% in the last 12 months, the report said, adding prices jumped 25% to 40% in the last 45 days alone as the Russia-Ukraine conflict weighed on the edible oil market.

The ongoing price volatility is unlikely to subside anytime soon as the conflict has put various commodities under pressure especially crude oil.

Last week, India’s central bank warned that prices of various commodities, including edible oil will remain at elevated levels due to the ongoing geopolitical tensions. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) also sharply raised the inflation forecast for 2022-23 to 5.7% against its earlier projection of 4.5%.

“As prices of edible oils rose over the last 12 months, the low- and middle-income households from across India have been feeling the pinch. For instance, the price of sunflower oil, used by the majority of Indian households, has risen from 98 per litre in mid-February 2019 to between 180 and 250 per litre, depending on the brand in use," LocalCircles said in its report.

Consequently, 24% of Indian households have cut consumption while 67% are paying more for it. However, half of those surveyed said their edible oil consumption has remained unchanged.

Prices of sunflower oil, peanut oil, canola oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, soyabean oil, mustard oil, palm oil, and olive oil have surged 50-70% in the last several months from their pre-covid levels. Sunflower, peanut, and mustard oil are the top three edible oils used by Indian households.

Prices of most cooking oils began to inch up in February with branded sunflower, vanaspati, mustard, and groundnut oils seeing sequential increase in selling prices, Mint reported earlier citing data from retail intelligence platform Bizom.

Compared to January, price of packaged sunflower oil in retail stores rose 4% in February and mustard oil increased 8.7%.

Soybean oil prices fell 0.4% drop while vanaspati oil rose 2.7% in the same period. Groundnut oil was up 1%, while palm oil saw prices dropped 12.9% after a highly inflationary period.

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