(Adds trade comments on record soyoil imports)
NEW DELHI, Aug 13 (Reuters) - India's palm oil imports rose by a tenth to 657,750 tonnes in July from a month earlier, data from a leading trade body showed, as buyers boosted shipments to meet a big gap in local supplies amid poor monsoon rains.
Palm oil imports by the world's top vegetable oil buyer are expected to stay firm in the next couple of months due to a drop in local cooking oil supplies on expectation of a lower harvest of summer sown oilseed crops including soybean, traders said.
India mainly buys palm oil from top producers Indonesia and Malaysia, and a small quantity of crude soft oils, including 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 palm oil imports, while it buys about 1 million tonne each of crude soy and sunflower oil.
India's total vegetable oil imports rose 25.6 percent from a month ago to 1.1 million tonnes in July, data from the Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA) showed on Wednesday.
Vegetable oil imports in July hit the highest level for the current marketing year (November-October) as the country's soyoil shipments touched a record 306,068 tonnes, a three-fold surge from the previous month.
Imports of soyoil hit the highest level in any single month since 1994 when India allowed unrestricted imports of the cooking oils, the trade body said in a statement.
Expectations of a lower soybean harvest due to this year's poor start of the June-September monsoon season led importers to contract higher quantities of soyoil, traders said.
Soybean, India's main summer oilseed crop, is planted with the spread of the monsoon over the main growing areas of central region.
This year, India's soybean areas received scant rainfall during the main planting month of July, causing lower coverage under the main summer oilseed crop.
But a late revival of the monsoon improved the soybean area from early August, and scaled down the initial expectation of a poor harvest later this year.
The monthly palm oil imports also hit this year's highest level, reflecting poor domestic supplies of cooking oils ahead of the festival season that starts from August. (Reporting by Ratnajyoti Dutta; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)