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India's palm oil imports could jump to 4-year high on lower prices - industry official

FILE PHOTO: Worker collects palm oil fruits at a plantation in Slim River

By Rajendra Jadhav and Mei Mei Chu

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - India's palm oil imports could jump 16% in 2022/23 to a four-year high of 9.17 million tonnes, as consumption is set to jump after two years of contraction due to COVID-led lockdowns, a senior industry official told Reuters on Tuesday.

Higher purchases by the world's biggest importer of vegetable oils could lend further support to palm oil futures, which are trading near their highest level in four months.

"Consumption fell for two straight years because of the pandemic. This year, it would rebound by about 5% as restrictions have eased and prices have fallen," said Sudhakar Desai, president of the Indian Vegetable Oil Producers' Association.

The consumption growth would be fulfilled by higher imports of palm oil, which has been trading at a discount to rival soyoil and sunflower oil, he said.

India's palm oil imports in the first four months of the 2022/23 marketing year that started on Nov. 1 jumped 74% from a year ago to 3.67 million tonnes, traders estimate.

India buys palm oil mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. It imports soybean and sunflower oil from Argentina, Brazil, Russia and Ukraine.

The country's total vegetable oil imports could rise to 14.38 million tonnes in the current year from 14.07 million tonnes a year ago, Desai said.

Soybean oil imports could fall to 3.16 million tonnes from 4.05 million tonnes, while sunflower oil imports could rise to 2 million tonnes from 1.93 million tonnes, he said.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav and Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)