Shipments surged 35% to 901,092 metric tonnes in December from 669,912 tonnes a year earlier, the Solvent Extractors Association of India said. That matched a median estimate of 900,000 tonnes in a Bloomberg survey last week.
Rising Indian purchases may help trim record stockpiles in Malaysia, the worlds second-largest producer, and curb a decline in prices, which fell 23% in 2012. Malaysia will allow shipments of the crude oil at zero duty for another month in February as it seeks to reduce inventory, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Bernard Dompok said.
Heavy discount of palm products of $300 to $350 per ton over soft oils, and lower domestic production of vegetable oils due to slowdown in crushing pushed up the import of palm products even during the winter season, BV Mehta, executive director at the trade group, said in the statement. Palm oil for delivery in March was little changed at 2,367 ringgit ($784) a tonne on the Malaysia Derivatives Exchange in Mumbai, erasing gains of as much as 1.4%earlier. Futures slumped to a three-year low of 2,217 ringgit on December 13. Crude palm oil imports rose 44% to 628,618 tonnes in December, while refined palm oil purchases climbed 28% to 137,475 tonnes, the extractors association said.
Soybean oil imports nearly tripled to 21,960 tonnes from 7,387 tonnes a year ago, while sunflower oil purchases dropped 27% to 69,000 tonnes, it said.