Fresh figures from the Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEAI) reveal that edible oil imports increased by some 21 per cent for the first six months to April 2005.
Imports jumped to 2.2 million tonnes in the first half of 2004-05, up from 1.82 million tonnes for the same period last year.
"Imports are expected to be much higher this year because of a drop in domestic oilseeds production," said B.V. Mehta, executive director of SEIA, adding that India was likely to import about 500,000 tonnes per month this year.
Purchases of edible oil by India are expected to reach around 5 million tonnes this year from 4.4 million tonnes in 2003-04, Mehta added, reports the American Soybean Association.
Soyoil in particular saw strong growth. Imports of crude soyoil leapt to 735,352 tonnes in the November 2004 to April 2005 period, up from 236,990 tonnes a year earlier. Crude palm oil purchases rose 10.8 per cent to 1.01 million tonnes from 911,520 tonnes.
India's oilseed output for 2005 is estimated to be around 21.8 million tonnes, a fall of 6.4 per cent from 23.3 million tonnes last year.
The processed food market is enjoying decent growth in India, pushing up demand for oils. The Indian branded food and drinks market grew last year by over 5 per cent, according to recent figures from ACNielsen, outpacing the global average growth rate of 4 per cent.
Supporting this buoyant overall trend, growth rates for individual product categories within the Indian market too, reflect aggressive performances within the similar period.
"If one looks specifically at the categories present in India, which can be compared with what is available on retail shelves across the globe, it is clearly a case of aggregates camouflaging the scorching growth rates experienced by individual product categories" says Sujit Das Munshi, executive director for retail measurement services, ACNielsen South Asia.