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UPDATE 1-India's vegetable oil imports drop 13% in 2019-20 - industry body

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NEW DELHI, Nov 13 (Reuters) - India’s vegetable oil imports fell 13% in the marketing year to October, a leading trade body said on Friday, due to sluggish demand from hotels and restaurants which bore the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic.

India imported 13.5 million tonnes of vegetable oils in the 2019-20 oil year, the Solvent Extractors’ Association said in a statement.

The country imported 1.27 million tonnes of vegetable oils in October this year, down from 1.48 million tonnes in the same month last year, it said.

In 2019-20, India’s palm oil imports fell 23.3% to 7.22 million tonnes, the data showed

Palm oil is mainly used by hotels and restaurants, which gradually began reopening from June after a nationwide coronavirus lockdown imposed in March. But palm oil demand remained weak due to continued high levels of coronavirus cases in the world’s second most populous country.

Purchases of soyoil rose to 3.38 million tonnes in 2019-20 from 3.09 million the previous year. Sunflower oil imports stood at 2.52 million tonnes against 2.35 million in 2018-19, the data showed.

Indian edible oil refiners are trimming imports of palm oil in November and December - the first two months of the 2020-21 oil year - to make space for soyoil as a recent rally in the price of palm due to output worries reduced the spread between the two oils.

India, the world’s biggest importer of vegetable oils, 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 Mayank Bhardwaj. Editing by Jane Merriman and Mark Potter)

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