NEW DELHI (May 14): Indian vegetable oil importers predict an "ugly" supply crunch if top producer Indonesia maintains its ban on palm oil exports to meet domestic demand.
The problem gets more serious for India, the world's biggest importer of edible oils, due to the Ukraine-Russia war disrupting supplies of sunflower oil.
Indonesia last month imposed a ban on palm oil exports to cool local cooking oil prices, making India more reliant on Malaysia, the world's second-biggest producer.
Between November and April, India's palm oil imports from Malaysia were 1.78 million tonnes, followed by 1.15 million tonnes from Indonesia, according to the Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA).
The trade group said the Indonesian ban may be lifted before end-May, but the "situation will turn ugly" if Indonesia continues to ban the export of palm oil products as enough supplies from other origins are not available.
India has sought to make up for the shortfall from the Indonesian ban and the Ukraine crisis by buying other edible oils.
Sunflower oil demand in the country has shrunk due to high global prices and reduced availability, according to SEA, adding that there has been no shipment from Ukraine since March 27.
India's total edible oil imports fell 14.4% to 900,085 tonnes in April, compared with the volume in March.
April's palm oil imports totalled 572,508 tonnes, constituting 64% of overall edible vegetable oil purchases.
India's palm oil imports from Malaysia last month amounted to 313,859 tonnes, made up of 277,024 tonnes of crude palm oil, 28,835 tonnes of refined, bleached and deodorised palm olein, and 8,000 tonnes of crude palm kernel oil, according to the association.