India's Dec palm oil imports drop 8.6% as prices rally- trade body

MUMBAI, Jan 16 (Reuters) - India's palm oil imports in December fell 8.6% from a year ago as a rally in prices prompted refiners to shift to rival soyoil, a leading trade body said on Thursday.

Lower purchases by India, the world's biggest importer of edible oils, could weigh on Malaysian palm oil prices <FCPOc3 >, but support soyoil prices.

India imported 741,490 tonnes of palm oil in December, while soyoil imports nearly doubled from a year ago to 168,048 tonnes, the Solvent Extractors' Association of India said in a statement

The country's sunflower oil imports in the month fell 16.1% from a year ago to 197,842 tonnes, it said.

New Delhi's palm oil imports in January are likely to fall as the government last week placed curbs on imports of refined palm oil and has informally asked traders to stop importing all kinds of palm oil from Malaysia, said a Mumbai-based trader.

Palm oil accounts for nearly two-thirds of India's total edible oil imports. The country buys more than 9 million tonnes of palm oil annually, mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia.

Indonesia is the world's biggest producer of palm oil, followed by Malaysia.

"Soyoil and sunflower oil imports could rise in coming months as refiners are reducing palm imports," the dealer said.

India mainly imports soyoil from Argentina and sunflower oil from Ukraine and Russia. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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