India's vegetable oil imports rose 26% to 14.46 lakh tonnes during March, driven by sharp increase in inward shipments of refined palm oil from Malaysia, industry body Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA) said.
Expressing concern over rising imports of refined palm oil, the trade body demanded that the duty difference between crude and refined oil should be increased to protect farmers as well as edible oil processors.
According to the data, edible oil imports rose to 13,93,255 tonnes in March 2019 from 11,22,685 tonnes in the year-ago period. Imports of non-edible oil jumped more than two-fold to 53,302 tonnes from 23,366 tonnes.
"Ministry of Finance, with effect from January 1, 2019, reduced import duty on palm oil and also reduced the duty difference between crude and palm oil from 10 per cent to 5 per cent on palmolein to be imported from Malaysia.
"As anticipated, worst fears have come true and India is flooded with RBD (refined, bleached and deodorised) Palmolein from Malaysia. Reduction in duty difference between CPO (crude palm oil) and Palmolein sourced from Malaysia has resulted in RBD palmolein imports going up from 1,30,000 tonnes in December 2018 to over 3,00,000 tonnes in March 2019," SEA said.
This development has also the potential of sounding the death knell of palm refining industry in India.
"This also has seriously impacted the prices of mustard seed and being currently quoted Rs 700-800 per quintal below of Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 4,200 per quintal. This will have a huge negative impact on incomes of mustard farmers. This anomaly needs to be corrected," the association said.
There is an urgent need to create duty difference of 10 per cent, between CPO and RBD palmolein as was prevailing before January 1, 2019 to survive in this situation, it added.
"The overall import of vegetable oils during November 2018 to March 2019 is reported at 63,09,406 tonnes as compared to 59,31,829 tonnes in the previous year," SEA said.