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India's palm oil imports to drop 9% as farmers expand oilseeds area

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FILE PHOTO: A man loads empty containers of edible oil onto a tricycle at a roadside in Kolkata
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By Rajendra Jadhav

PANAJI, India (Reuters) - India's palm oil imports in 2021/22 are likely to drop 9% from a year earlier on a rise in domestic supplies, as farmers expand the area planted with oilseeds in response to record high prices, a leading industry analyst told Reuters.

The lower imports by the world's biggest palm oil buyer could limit a rally in benchmark Malaysian palm oil prices, which are trading near record highs hit in August.

Palm oil imports in the new marketing year starting on Nov. 1 could fall to 7.6 million tonnes from 8.35 million this year, Govindbhai Patel, managing director of trading firm G.G. Patel & Nikhil Research Company, said on Thursday.

Lower palm oil imports would pull down total edible oil imports to 13.3 million tonnes in 2021/22 from 13.7 million tonnes, said Patel, who has been trading edible oils for more than five decades.

India buys palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, with its soyoil mainly imported from Argentina and Brazil. It purchases sunflower oil from Ukraine.

Edible oil supplies are likely to rise nearly 6% to 8.5 million tonnes as domestic soybean and rapeseed production rises, Patel said.

Soybean and rapeseed prices hit a record high earlier this year, prompting farmers to switch to oilseeds from other crops.

The country's edible oil consumption, which was depressed by coronavirus-led lockdowns, could rise 2% to 21.8 million tonnes next year, Patel said.

"Demand has been improving from hotels and restaurants as lockdown restrictions are lifted," he said.

India's sunflower oil imports, which are set to fall 22% in the current year because of record high prices, could rebound 28% to 2.5 million tonnes as prices are now softening, he said.

Soyoil imports could remain steady at around 3.3 million tonnes, including 300,000 tonnes of duty-free shipments from neighbouring Nepal, he said.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Jan Harvey)

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