Sunday March 13, 9:24 PM NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India, the world's largestedible oil importer, is likely to harvest a bigger summer oilseed cropbecause of an increase in the area under cultivation, an industryassociation said on Sunday.
The Central Organisation for Oil Industry and Trade (COOIT) forecast thesummer oilseed production at 9.5 million tonnes, up from 9.4 milliontonnes a year ago.
But the country's total oilseed production in 2004/05 (Oct-Sept) isforecast to fall to 21.8 million tonnes against 23.3 million tonnes in theprevious year because of poor winter crop, it said.
The global vegetable oil industry watches COOIT's estimates closely asIndia's domestic oilseed output impacts vegetable oil imports, mainly fromMalaysia, Indonesia, Brazil and Argentina.
The trade body had earlier estimated the summer crop at 10.37 milliontonnes but rains and hailstorm in the past month damaged the season's mainoilseed crop of rapeseed, especially in Rajasthan.
"Hailstorm and untimely rains in Rajasthan have badly hit the rapeseedcrop," COOIT Chairman Sandeep Bajoria told Reuters.
The trade body forecast rapeseed production at 6.2 million tonnes comparedwith 6.1 million tonnes during last summer. COOIT had earlier estimatedthe rapeseed production at 7.02 million tonnes.
India grows two oilseed crops, mainly soybean and groundnut in the winterseason and rapeseed and groundnut in the summer.
Winter crops are sown in June and harvesting begins in September, whilesummer crops are grown between November and March.
Groundnut production during the summer season is seen slightly lower at1.6 million tonnes from the previous year's 1.7 million tonnes.
India also grows sunflower, linseeds, safflower and sesame seed in smalleramounts.
Industry officials said the country's vegetable oil imports are expectedto rise to 5 million tonnes during the year compared to 4.4 million tonnesa year ago due to lower oilseed output.
"We will import more edible oil this year and prices will remain firm,"said B.V.Mehta, executive director of Solvent Extractors Association ofIndia.
India, which imports some 40 percent of its annual needs of 11 milliontonnes of edible oil, is the world's fourth-largest vegetable oilproducer.
The country buys palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia and soy oil fromBrazil and Argentina.