UPDATE 1-India's 2012 silver imports seen marginally up

Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:00pm IST

* Silver imports seen above 5,000 tonnes in 2012, up 4 pct - trade body

* Prices seen in 45,000-100,000 rupees range (Adds quotes, background)

By Siddesh Mayenkar

MUMBAI, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Silver imports into India, the world's biggest bullion consumer, could rise a mere 4 percent in 2012, compared with a 70 percent rise in 2011, as investors cash in on the price increase, said Prithviraj Kothari, president, Bombay Bullion Association.

He expects silver imports in 2012 to top 5,000 tonnes from 4,800 tonnes in 2011.

The prices of silver in India have more than doubled in two years.

"Investors who had bought chunk of silver last year will come forward and sell now," said Prithviraj Kothari, president of the Bombay Bullion Association.

The imports could also depend on monsoon, which drives income in rural areas, a major market for the white metal.

Silver prices could range between 45,000 rupees and 100,000 rupees in 2012, while gold prices could be in the range of 26,000-35,000 rupees, Kothari said.

Silver for March delivery on the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) was at 56,483 rupees per kg on Tuesday, up 0.29 percent.

Kothari, who is also the director of RiddhiSiddhi Bullion, added the company's platinum coins had witnessed "good response" from investors in the past six months.

The expectation of a rise in platinum price is more than gold, said Kothari. RiddhiSiddhi Bullion has so far sold 100 kgs of platinum in the form of coins.

Gold in the global market was trading at $1,740.88 an ounce, lower than platinum's price of $1,670.50 an ounce on Tuesday.

India imports 10-15 tonnes of platinum annually for use mostly in the auto industry. The metal is used in the production of catalytic converters by automakers. (Editing by Rajesh Pandathil)

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