By Rajendra Jadhav
MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's palm oil imports climbed 8% in the marketing year ended Oct. 31 compared with the same period a year earlier as buying of refined palm oil from Malaysia surged after New Delhi reduced import tax on the oil, a leading trade body said on Friday.
The higher palm oil purchases, hitting 9.4 million tonnes, lifted India's total vegetable oil imports by 3.5% for the 12 months to 15.5 million tonnes, the Solvent Extractors' Association (SEA) said in a statement.
New Delhi's refined palm oil imports in the 2018/19 marketing year jumped 28% from a year ago to 2.7 million tonnes, the SEA said.
India's higher imports helped Malaysia to reduce its inventories and supported benchmark Malaysian palm oil prices that are trading near their highest level in two-years.
Palm oil accounts for nearly two-thirds of India's total edible oil imports. India buys palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, with its soyoil mainly imported from Argentina and Brazil. It purchases sunflower oil from Ukraine and Russia.
From January to August, refined palm oil imports from Malaysia were charged an import duty that was 5% lower than supplies from rival Indonesia, which prompted refiners to raise purchases, said one Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.
In the first week of September, India raised the tax on refined palm oil from Malaysia to 50% from 45% for six months to rein in imports and boost local refining.
Meanwhile India's soyoil imports in the 2018/19 marketing year edged 1.5% higher to 3.09 million tonnes, while sunflower oil imports dropped 7% to 2.35 million tonnes, the Mumbai-based trade body said.
(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)