India's 2020-21 edible oil imports pegged at 12.5-13.5 mn tonne: SEA

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New Delhi: India's edible oil imports are estimated to remain range-bound at 12.5-13.5 million tonne in 2020-21 oil year due to sluggish hotel consumption in the wake of COVID-19 and a possible rise in domestic production, according to trade body SEA.

The country's edible oil imports declined 13 per cent to 13.52 million tonne in the 2019-20 oil year (November-October), it said.

"We are pegging imports to remain range-bound between 12.5 to 13.5 million tonnes in 2020-21," Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA) President Atul Chaturvedi said in a statement.

Edible oil imports may be restricted because of hopes of higher domestic oilseed production and expectation of 1-1.5 million tonne higher edible oil output.

Poor demand due to lower out of home consumption in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will have a bearing on imports this year.

"India is a price-sensitive market and high prices may affect consumption negatively," he said.

SEA mentioned that oilseeds farmers, particularly mustard growers, are planting in more areas - responding positively to the high price signal. "We should not be surprised if Oilseed production goes up big time."

The cumulative effect of all these factors would ensure that Indian edible oil imports may remain restricted, it added.

In the 2019-20 oil year, SEA said, crude edible oil comprised 97 per cent of the total imports, as domestic refining capacity utilisation improves significantly.

As refined oils were kept under restricted import category, its shipments were restricted to only 4.21 lakh tonne in 2019-20 as compared to 27.31 lakh tonne in the previous year.

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