Refined edible oil, crude palm oil spared

Written by Commodities Bureau | New Delhi, Nov 18 | Updated: Nov 19 2008, 05:41am hrs
Concerned over fall in domestic prices, the government Tuesday re-imposed a import duty of 20% on crude soybean oil, but left the import duties on refined edible oils and crude palm oil untouched at their last levels.

In a press statement the government said the full exemption from customs duty granted earlier on crude soybean oil stands withdrawn, consequently crude soybean oil will be subject to a basic customs duty of 20% ad valorem.

However, there would be no change in the import duty on refined soyoil.

In April, government had scrapped the import duties on crude edible oils and brought it down to 7.5% on all refined edible oils in view of surge in local and international rates.

Earlier, the import duty on crude palm oil was 20%, while that on refined palm oil and RBD palmolein was 27.5% and 28.33% respectively.

The import duty on crude soyoil was 40%. Indian edible oil prices are entirely guided by market movements in international markets as the country imports more than half of its annual edible oil demand.

However, since then not only has the wholesale price-index based inflation come down to single digit, but prices of edible oils has also dropped significantly.

In local markets, now, a tonne of imported crude soyoil costs less than Rs 45,000, almost the same as whole of last years average, while that of crude palm oil costs less than Rs 30,000, less than 30% since last years average price.

The price of refined soyoil produced from domestically crushed soybeans has dropped by almost 43% and are currently ruling at around Rs 370 per 10 kilogram.

Even the price of soybean seeds has fallen to around Rs 1,450 per 100 kg down almost Rs 1,000 per 100 kg since September. So much so, there have been reports that farmers in Indias main kharif oilseed growing states had started hoarding their produce because of sharp fall in prices.

Meanwhile, edible oil industry representatives have strongly criticised the governments half-hearted approach to the whole issue.

This is half-hearted approach to save the farmers who have been reeling under severe fall in prices. The government should have re-imposed import duties on all crude oils and not a single edible oil, said BV Mehta, executive director of Solvent Extractors Association.

He said the move would not have any impact on lifting oilseed prices in the country, as at present import of crude soybean oil is almost nil.

Already landed cost of soyabean oil is around $350 per tonne higher than palm oil, which will now go up to $480 per tonne, making palm oil much cheaper to all other edible oils that come into the country, he added.

In 2007-08 (Nov-Oct), India imported around 4.8 million tonnes of palm oil out of the total edible oil imports of around 5.6 million tonnes, while the rest was soyaoil.

Indias oilseed production in the current kharif season is expected to be around 17.95 million tonnes, slightly lower than 19.85 million tonnes produced last year.