Zsazya Senorita, Jakarta – China will likely purchase 8 million tons of Indonesian palm oil in 2024 after imports suffered a decline amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an association of the commodity's producers.
Beijing has been the top buyer of Indonesian palm oil by country since 2019 with imports reaching 8.15 million tons that year. However, the pandemic caused China to import less palm oil from the Southeast Asian nation.
The Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki) reported that China only bought 6.17 million tons of palm oil from Indonesia in the Covid-hit 2020. The figures then slightly picked up to 6.65 million tons in 2021 and shrank to 6.35 million tons a year later. Indonesia has exported 3.35 million tons of palm oil to China as of the first half of 2023.
"Our palm oil exports to China are expected to slightly rise to 7 million in 2023, and at least 8 million tons next year," Gapki chairman Eddy Martono told a recent forum.
"Even so, we should continue to work with the government to look for new non-traditional markets," Eddy said.
Eddy attributed the rising Chinese imports to the post-pandemic economic recovery.
Gapki data shows that China used to fall behind India in terms of Indonesian palm oil imports.
In 2017, China only bought 4.6 million tons of palm oil from Indonesia, less that of India (7.79 million tons). The European Union (EU) at the time posted 5.54 million tons of Indonesian palm oil imports.
According to Gapki, Indonesia's palm oil exports totaled 16.31 million tons in Jan-June 2023, marking a 35.49 percent increase from 12.04 million tons recorded in the same period last year. The growing demand from China and South Asian nations like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh was what boosted the numbers.
From a value standpoint, Indonesia's palm oil exports in the first half of 2023 amounted to $14.6 billion. This is a 17.18 percent drop compared to $17.63 billion over the same period in 2022. Gapki attributed the declining exports to the falling prices of crude palm oil (CPO).
Indonesia produced 27.29 million tons of palm oil in Jan-June 2023, up by 16.15 percent from 23.5 million tons recorded in the first half of 2022. The production in the first semester of 2023 encompassed CPO (24.89 million tons) and palm kernel oil (2.39 million tons).