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India eyes rare feed grain imports after duty waiver

Date: 03-08-2012
Subject: India eyes rare feed grain imports after duty waiver
SINGAPORE/NEW DELHI, Aug 2 (Reuters) - India, Asia's top soymeal exporter, could turn into an importer as poor monsoon rains threaten crop yields, lifting domestic prices to a record and deepening global supply concerns triggered by the worst U.S. drought in 56 years.

Soymeal prices in India have more than doubled in the last three months, raising concerns over food inflation and prompting the authorities to abolish customs tariffs on oilmeal imports.

"It is bullish for prices as a supplier is turning into an importer," said one trading manager with an international trading company in Singapore, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. "We don't see large-scale imports but it is more of a psychological move."

India's imports could buoy benchmark Chicago soymeal futures, which have jumped almost 40 percent in the last two months, hitting an all-time on Tuesday, as the U.S. drought curbs yields.

Indian soymeal prices have climbed 110 percent since early May to a record $850 a tonne as the June-September monsoon rains, the main source of irrigation for half of its farmlands, have been a fifth below normal.

Import duty on oilcakes or oilmeal will be waived to ease tight domestic supplies for the feed industry and edible oil producers, Farm Minister Sharad Pawar announced this week.

India exports about 4 million to 5 million tonnes of soymeal annually and around 2 million to 4 million tonnes of corn, mainly to Asia. This year it has sold about half-a-million tonnes of soymeal to sanctions-hit Iran at record prices.

Weather conditions make it difficult to track future requirements precisely, and India has previously suffered from production swings of this kind.

In 2009, New York raw sugar futures rocketed to their highest in nearly three decades after a severe drought forced India to import about 2 million tonnes after having exported 5 million tonnes a year earlier.

As the market awaits a formal order from the government, traders said shipments to India were most likely to be made from China, itself the world's biggest soybean importer.

Traders are quoting Chinese soymeal at around $690 a tonne, including the cost of shipping to India.

"China is most competitive at the moment for supplies to India," said another Singapore trader. "India could buy around 300,000 tonnes from China in the next few months."

Imports could ease India's soymeal prices, even though this volume is paltry beside the nation's annual consumption of 3.4 million tonnes, which is used to feed cattle, chickens, pigs and fish. Meal is made by extracting oil from the beans.

China, which imports 60 percent of the world's traded soybeans, has an overcapacity in oilseed processing, leading to comparatively lower prices.

"The duty waiver will be helpful to import oilmeal until new oilseed crops come in October," said a Mumbai-based trader. Import duty on oilmeals such as soybean, groundnut and sunflower stands around 20 percent, including local levies.

Traders said India has never imported soymeal, although it has bought other types of oilmeal, such as mustard or canola, palm kernel and groundnut or sunflower, as and when needed.

Some traders said about 700,000 to 800,000 tonnes of soybean stocks from the previous season were still available in local markets to feed industry demand until the new harvest starts from October. (Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source : in.reuters.com/article

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