Logistical bottlenecks seen limiting India’s soymeal imports: trade

New Delhi on Tuesday allowed imports of genetically modified (GM) soymeal for the first time to help the poultry industry after soymeal prices tripled in a year to a record high. | File photo

MUMBAI, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Indian traders are scrambling to secure prompt shipments of soymeal after New Delhi relaxed rules to allow the import of 1.2 million tonnes of the animal feed, but logistical bottlenecks could limit volumes to less than 400,000 tonnes, industry officials told Reuters.

New Delhi on Tuesday allowed imports of genetically modified (GM) soymeal for the first time to help the poultry industry after soymeal prices tripled in a year to a record high.

But the government said shipments must arrive before Oct. 31 and only through Nhava Sheva port on the west coast and the Petrapole checkpost on the Bangladesh border to the east.

"Nhava Sheva port is only for containers and securing containers is a challenge. Traders can bring soymeal via roads from Bangladesh but there is a congestion issue at Petrapole checkpost," said B.V. Mehta, executive director of the Solvent Extractors Association of India, an industry body.

Soymeal prices in India are around 85,000 rupees ($1,145.26) per tonne, at least 40% cheaper than neighbouring countries, dealers said.

Traders will try to import soymeal from Bangladesh, Vietnam and other Asian countries rather than from Argentina or Brazil because of the longer transit time, said Manoj Agrawal, managing director at exporter Maharashtra Oil Extractions.

"Large scale imports are not possible unless the government allows imports at a port that handles bulk shipments," Agrawal added.

Anticipating Indian demand, soymeal suppliers in Bangladesh have raised prices to $650 per tonne from $540 a month ago, dealers said.

A few Indian buyers have already placed 100,000 tonne orders that could arrive in the next few days from south Asian countries, said Prasanna Pedgaonkar, general manager at Venky's, India's biggest poultry producer.

The imports are feasible because of price disparity but if local prices fall in October with the new season soybean crop then traders may stop buying overseas, Pedgaonkar said.

Activists have opposed imports of GM soymeal as the country hasn't approved cultivation of any GM food crop so far.

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