India reclaimed its position as the premier edible oil importer after China in 2009 after a six year hiatus. India dethroned China by importing 8.4 million tonnes of crude edible oil, up 35 percent. Comparatively, China imported 8.16 million tonnes of edible oil, up 8.4 percent last year.
India also became the largest importer of palm oil in calender year 2009, importing 6.4million tonnes.
A lower oil seed output, an appreciating currency and zero import duties during the last few months meant India become the world’s largest edible oil importer after China.
Largely agrarian, India saw the worst monsoon in 37 years last year. The agricultural ministry also said that India’s summer-sown oilseed output fell to 15.2 million tonnes from 17.8 million tonnes a year ago and the rupee, which appreciated 3.4 percent in the October-December quarter, rose to Rs 45 per dollar on Monday, its strongest since September 22, 2008. Further, due to high inflation rates which peaked in December 2007 near 20 percent, Delhi relaxed import taxes from April 1, 2008, dropping crude vegetable oil import tax and slashing duties on refined oils from 27.5 percent to 7.5 percent.
India’s oilseed imports are expected to rise further. “I think these factors will push the country’s vegetable oil imports between 9.0 and 9.5 million tonnes in the current oil year,” SEA Executive Director B.V Mehta told Reuters. India’s oil year runs from November to October.