India's edible oil imports likely to recover in June, say industry experts

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NEW DELHI (June 2): India's edible oil imports are likely to recover in June after a sharp drop during a nationwide lockdown to contain Covid-19 in April and May, according to industry experts.

India is expected to buy 1.14 million tonnes of vegetable oils this month compared with the average of 865,000 tonnes in the previous two months, Sudhakar Desai, president of the Indian Vegetable Oil Producers’ Association (IVPA), said during a webinar on the pandemic's impact on the industry.

In his view, the prevailing price spreads seem attractive for crude palm oil (CPO) and with the government's recent cancellation of dozens of import permits for refined products would lead to more CPO purchases by Indian refiners.

The lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus has severely hit India's food service industry, resulting in a significant reduction in the commercial consumption of palm oil.

With the government now easing rules for reopening businesses, a recovery in demand is expected over the coming months.

It would take a year for normalcy to return to the market, said Shiv Kumar, a senior executive at consumer products giant ITC Ltd.

A lot of food service demand is being converted into in-house consumption and ITC would focus on packed and ready-to-eat foods, Kumar told the webinar.

He said this change in food habits will dictate the choice of vegetable oils.