India's 2012/13 vegoil imports could hit 11 mln T-trade body head


NEW DELHI, Feb 14 (Reuters) - India's vegetable oil importsin the year to October could rise as high as 11 million tonnesif the government does not curb cheap palm oil imports fromsoutheast Asia, an industry official said on Thursday.

"Imports could be 10.5-11.0 million tonnes if the currenttrend of unabated cheap imports continues in the absence of anycorrective steps by the government," B.V. Mehta, executivedirector of the Solvent Extractors' Association, told Reuters.

SEA's latest data showed India's vegetable oil importssoared 27.4 percent from a month earlier to hit an all-time highin January on record purchases of cheap palm oil, despite a hikein import duties mid-month.

He forecast demand for vegetable oils in the world's topimporter could go up by about 4.8 percent to 17.5 million tonnesin 2012/13 with 63 percent to be sourced by overseas purchases,mainly palm oil.

Earlier, SEA demanded that the import duty on crude edibleoil should be raised to 10 percent, while refined cooking oilimports should be taxed at 20 percent, ensuring at least a 10percent duty differential between the two variants.

India, the world's top vegetable oil buyer, has alreadytaken steps to protect its domestic oilseed growers and refinersfrom cheap imports from its major suppliers, Indonesia andMalaysia.

Record imports could put more pressure on India's currentaccount deficit, which hit 5.4 percent of gross domestic product(GDP) in the September quarter and, according to some analysts,could hit nearly 8 percent in the December quarter.

India currently imposes a 2.5 percent tax on crude edibleoil imports including crude palm oil (CPO), and levies a 7.5percent duty on refined oils including RBD palmolein.

India mainly buys palm oils from Indonesia and Malaysia, anda small quantity of soyoil from Brazil and Indonesia. (Reporting by Ratnajyoti Dutta; Editing by Jo Winterbottom)

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