* April palm oil imports down 1.8 pct m/m
* April soyoil imports drop from a month ago
* Sunflower oil $28/T cheaper than soyoil in April (Adds details of prices, trader’s comments, table)
By Ratnajyoti Dutta
NEW DELHI, May 14 (Reuters) - India’s palm oil imports are expected to rise in May, as stocks are increased ahead of Ramadan to meet demand for cooking oil during the Muslim holy month.
Consumption of the edible oil usually rises during Ramadan, due to be observed in the middle of year, as Muslims gather for communal feasts to break their fast.
Palm oil imports could be at least 600,000 tonnes in May, Sandeep Bajoria, chief executive of Mumbai-based brokerage Sunvin Group.
Higher purchases by India, the world’s top palm oil importer, should support benchmark Malaysian futures which fell 0.4 percent in April, the second monthly drop.
Palm oil imports dropped marginally in April from the month before, as processors raised purchase of low density sunflower oil due to falling prices to meet the marriage season demand, data of the Solvent Extractors’ Association showed on Wednesday.
Palm oil imports fell more than expected to 536,175 tonnes in April from 545,875 tonnes in March, the second fall in three months after overseas purchases hit a near three-year low in February on hopes of improved supplies of rival rapeseed oil.
“Indian refiners have preferred to import crude soft oils over crude palm oil,” B.V.Mehta, executive director of the SEA, said in a statement.
India mainly buys palm oil from the world’s top suppliers, Indonesia and Malaysia. It also buys small quantities of crude soft oils, sourcing soyoil from Latin America and sunflower oil from Ukraine and Russia.
Half of India’s annual demand of 17-18 million tonnes of cooking oil is met through imports of palm oil, while it also buys around 1 million tonne each of soy and sunflower oil.
In April, imports of sunflower oil rose 74 percent to 170,260 tonnes from a month earlier, amid a drop in prices.
Sunflower oil is popular for preparing fried foods in the marriage season that begins in April.
Last month, imported crude palm oil averaged $907 a tonne against $946 for sunflower oil and $974 for soyoil. In March, imported sunflower oil averaged $974 a tonne.
India imported 113,000 tonnes of soyoil in April, down 40 percent from the previous month.
Prices of sunflower, a low density cooking oil, have been falling below its substitute soyoil since November on improved supplies from the Black Sea producing nations.
Imported sunflower oil averaged $1,183 per tonne a year ago month as against $1,081 of soyoil, the SEA data showed.
India’s total cooking oil imports fell 1.6 percent from a month ago to 819,435 tonnes. (Editing by Ed Davies)