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India's Jan vegoil imports hit all-time high on record palm buy

NEW DELHI, Feb 14 (Reuters) - India's vegetable oil imports soared 27.4 percent from a month earlier to hit an all-time high in January on record purchases of cheap palm oil from southeast Asia, a trade body said on Thursday, despite a hike in import duties mid-month.

India is the world's largest vegetable oils importer, and buys in around 8-9 million tonnes a year or about half its total consumption. Palm oil accounts for about 80 percent of imports.

Malaysia, the world's No. 2 producer of palm oil, made exports duty-free from Jan. 1 and Indian buying soared until New Delhi slapped duties on imports mid-month to protect domestic players.

India's vegetable oil imports were 1.16 million tonnes last month with palm oil imports surging 13 percent on month to hit a record of 893,313 tonnes, the Solvent Extractors' Association (SEA) said in a statement.

A Reuters survey had forecast vegetable oil imports would range between 1.1-1.2 million tonnes in January, including 893,750 tonnes of palm oil. (Reporting by Ratnajyoti Dutta; Editing by Himani Sarkar)