U.S. imports of palm oil in 2011-12 were forecast at a record 1,043,000 tonnes, up 90 million tonnes, or 9%, from 953,000 tonnes in the previous year. The forecast import total eclipsed the previous record of 1,036,000 tonnes in 2008-09. The increase in demand was attributed largely to food industry efforts to significantly reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids in their food service and consumer products. But price also was a factor. Prices of refined, bleached and deordorized palm oil at the Gulf have been near or even below soybean oil prices during the past several weeks.

Pressuring palm oil prices in the United States and worldwide was steadily increasing production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Oct. 12 forecast world palm oil production in the current marketing year at a record 50,281,000 tonnes, up 2,616,000 tonnes, or 5%, from 47,665,000 tonnes in 2010-11, the previous record. Production was forecast to be record high in four of the five largest produc-ing nations. Production in Indonesia, the world’s largest producer, was forecast at 25,400,000 tonnes, up 8% from 23,600,000 tonnes in 2010-11, and production in Malaysia was projected at 18,400,00 tonnes, up 2% from 18,000,000 tonnes in the preceding year. Thailand and Colombia also were forecast to have record production this year at 1,450,000 tonnes and 900,000 tonnes, respectively.

While palm oil usage in the United States still is dwarfed by soybean oil usage (soybean oil usage in the United States in the current year was forecast at 8,029,000 tonnes), it is the world’s most important vegetable oil in world trade. World palm oil exports in 2011-12 were projected at a record 38,925,000 tonnes, up 7% from 36,505,000 tonnes in 2010-11, the previous record. In comparison, world soybean oil exports in 2011-12 were forecast at 9,278,000 tonnes, which was down 4% from the previous year and down 16% compared with record soybean oil exports of 10,991,000 tonnes in 2007-08.