By Rajendra Jadhav
MUMBAI, Sept 13 (Reuters) - India's palm oil imports in August rose 5% from a month earlier to an 11-month peak as lower prices prompted refiners to lift purchases for peak festive season, a leading trade body said on Friday.
Higher purchases by the world's biggest edible oil importer could support palm oil prices that are under pressure due to sluggish demand.
New Delhi imported 852,534 tonnes of palm oil in August, the highest since September 2018, the Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA) said in a statement https://bit.ly/2kHO62d.
India's palm oil imports in the first 10 months of 2018/19 marketing year started on Nov. 1 rose 10.3 % from a year ago to 7.75 million tonnes.
India imports more than two-thirds of its edible oil needs, up from a third two decades ago, as local output has failed to match growing demand in Asia's third biggest economy. Palm oil accounts for around two-thirds of total imports.
The country's soyoil imports surged 38% in August from a month earlier to 440,704 tonnes, the highest since July 2017. Sunflower oil imports in August rose 15% from a month earlier to 230,023 tonnes.
Higher imports of soyoil and palm oil lifted the country vegetable oil imports to a record 1.59 million tonnes in August, according to data compiled by the SEA.
"Refiners were aggressively buying for the upcoming festival season," said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.
Retail demand for edible oils usually strengthens in the final quarter as India gears up for the wedding season as well as festivals such as Diwali and Dussehra.
The imports would remain on higher side even in September as soybean production is likely to fall in 2019 due to the excessive rainfall in top producing central state of Madhya Pradesh, the dealer said.
Soybean is the main summer-sown oilseed crop in India.
India primarily imports palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia and soyoil from Argentina and Brazil. It also buys sunflower oil from Ukraine and canola oil from Canada. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Aditya Soni)