BOMBAY (August 21 2003) : India, the world's biggest edible oil buyer, islikely to import nine percent less of the commodity in the year startingin November than in the previous year due to a surge in oilseed output, asenior industry official said.
Edible oil imports could decline to 4.83 million tonnes next year from therecord 5.3 million estimated for this year, Sanden Bajoria, chairman ofthe Central Organisation for Oil Industry and Trade, told Reuters onWednesday.
It is likely to import 400,000 tonnes less of palm oils and 70,000 tonnesless of soya oil next year, he said.
With more than one billion people, India imports half the edible oil itneeds, mainly from Malaysia, Indonesia, Argentina and Brazil.
Oil imports in November-July rose 30 percent from a year earlier to 3.86million tonnes.
"We expect a bumper harvest next year as winter crops have beenprogressing very well following bountiful rains," Bajoria said in aninterview.
Next year's summer crop is also likely to be better than this year's asthe monsoon has been good and the soil will remain moist enough for sowingin November, Bajoria said.
Winter oilseeds, such as groundnut and soyabean, are sown in June and Julyand harvested in October-November. Sowing of summer crops, mainly ofmustard, begins just after that, and harvesting starts in February.
The south-west monsoon, which runs from June to September, has progressedwell so far and total rainfall has been three percent above normal.
In the previous year, the country was hit by its worst drought in 15 yearsfollowing scanty rain.
"Oilseed output this year is likely to surge by 45 percent to 22.3 milliontonnes, which may translate into an additional supply of 1.5 milliontonnes of edible oil," Bajoria said.
Winter oilseed output in the next year is forecast to rise to 12.3 milliontonnes from 8.7 million this year, while summer output could rise 49percent to 10 million tonnes, he said.
But imports would not drop by the same extent, because domestic demandthis year is expected to rise by 1.03 million tonnes to 11.23 milliontonnes because of a rise in incomes of farmers, growth in population anddrop in prices, he said.
Average prices of imported oils were expected to fall to 35,000 rupees($764) a tonne next year from about 40,000 rupees this year, he said.
"Price and income elasticity's of demand, along with a population growthof about 1.8 percent a year, may result in a rise in edible oilconsumption to 10.8 kg per person a year from 9.8 kg this year," Bajoriasaid.-Reuters