The country had imported 11.57 lakh tonnes vegetable oils (edible and non-edible) in the same month last year.
Imports fell in January as crude palm oil (CPO) shipments fell by more than 50% to 3.37 lakh tonnes from 7.21 lakh tonnes in January 2013.
However, import of RBD (refined) palmolein rose to 2.08 lakh tonnes in January from 1.53 lakh tonnes in the year-ago period."RBD Palmolein (finished product) is cheaper by $15/20 per tonne as compared to CPO, the raw material," Solvent Extractors Association of India said in a statement.
During November 2013 and January 2014, import of vegetable oil has increased by 5% to 29.17 lakh tonnes, against 27.66 lakh tonnes in the corresponding period of the previous oil year (November-October).
Out of the total import, edible oil stood at 28.51 lakh tonnes and non-edible oil at 66,644 tonnes. "In last two months, sunflower oil being cheaper to soyabean oil, encouraged larger import by India," SEA said.
The association noted that in view of increased import of RBD palmolein in last two years, the capacity utilisation of domestic refiners reduced from 55-60% to 30-35% and many units closed down or are on verge of closure due to continuous disparity in processing of CPO.
India imports more than 50% of its domestic edible oil demand. Overseas shipments stood at over 10.6 million tonnes.