By Rajendra Jadhav
PANAJI, India, Sept 21 (Reuters) - India’s palm oil imports in 2016/17 are likely to rise 9 percent to 9.24 million tonnes from a year earlier, as a growing population and higher income levels drive up edible oil consumption, a leading industry analyst said on Wednesday.
Higher purchases by India, the world’s biggest importer of cooking oils, could further push up benchmark palm oil prices , which are already trading near a five-month high.
“Per capita consumption (of edible oils) has been rising due to the growth in population and rising income levels,” trade expert and managing director of trading firm G.G. Patel & Nikhil Research Company, Govindbhai Patel, told an industry conference in the tourist state of Goa.
India’s edible oil consumption is likely to grow 6.25 percent to 22.1 million tonnes in the year to October 2017, Patel said in his presentation.
A jump in demand will lift India’s annual edible oil imports by 6.2 percent to a record 15.5 million tonnes in 2016/17.
In the current 2015/16 year, palm oil imports are expected to drop to 8.47 million tonnes from a record 9.54 million tonnes a year earlier, as the rally in prices of the tropical oil prompted buyers to switch to rival soyoil.
Patel said output of summer-sown oilseeds was set to rise 34 percent to 14.5 million tonnes, mainly due to a 36 percent jump in soybean production after plentiful monsoon rains in India.
Soybean production is estimated at 9.5 million tonnes, up from 7 million tonnes a year earlier.
The rise in soybean production will keep the country’s soyoil imports steady at 4.2 million tonnes in 2016/17, he said.
India buys palm oil, which forms the bulk of its vegetable oil imports, from Malaysia and Indonesia and some soyoil from Brazil and Argentina. It also imports small amounts of sunflower oil and canola oil.
The country’s production of rapeseed, the main winter-sown oilseed, is expected to rise 6.3 million tonnes, up 12.5 percent from a year earlier, Patel said. (Editing by Malini Menon and Mark Potter)