MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's palm oil imports jumped 65% in May from a year earlier as oversees purchases of refined palm more than doubled due to lower import duty and a drop in prices, a leading trade body said on Friday.
Palm oil imports totalled 818,149 tonnes last month, including 371,060 tonnes of refined palm oil, the Solvent Extractors' Association (SEA) said in a statement https://bit.ly/2WJKQVY.
India, the world's biggest importer of edible oils, had imported 157,832 tonnes of refined palm oil in the year-ago period.
India's decision to cut duty on refined palm oil imports from Malaysia, halved the spread between refined and palm oil duty structures to 5%, making it lucrative for importers to buy refined products from the Southeast Asian country, the SEA said.
In January, India cut duty on refined palm oil sourced from Malaysia to 45% from 54% as part of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) signed by the two countries nearly a decade ago.
The SEA has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking higher duty on refined palm oil imports from Malaysia to protect the local industry.
India primarily imports palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia and soyoil from Argentina and Brazil. It also buys small volumes of sunflower oil from Ukraine and canola oil from Canada.
The country's soyoil imports fell 42% in May from a year ago to 232,003 tonnes, while sunflower oil imports plunged 61% to 130,634 tonnes, the SEA said.
"Palm oil is very competitive right now. That's why refiners are reducing buying of sunflower oil and soyoil," said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.
(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)