The government on Monday said traders will be allowed to import refined palm oil without licence for one more year till December 2022, a move aimed at increasing domestic supplies and bring down prices of cooking oils.

In June, the government removed import restrictions on refined palm oil till December 31 this year as prices of edible oils had risen sharply.

Import of 'refined bleached deodoerised palm oil' and 'refined bleached deoderised palmolein' is "free for a period up to December 31, 2022", according to a notification by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).

It, however, added that the import is not permitted through any port in Kerala.

Earlier, these imports were under the restricted category wherein an importer needed a licence or permission from DGFT for inbound shipments.

Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA) Executive Director B V Mehta said the decision to extend the free import period will hit domestic oilseed processors.

"The government has taken this decision in view of high wholesale inflation. However, it should have extended the period only till March next year. Local mustard crop will start arriving in the market from March onwards boosting domestic edible oil production," he added.

According to the SEA, India's dependence on import of edible oils is nearly 65 per cent of the total consumption of about 22-22.5 million tonne. The country imports 13-15 million tonne to bridge the gap between demand and domestic supply.

For the last two marketing years (November to October), due to the pandemic, the imported quantity reduced to nearly 13 million tonne.

In 2019-20, the import quantity dropped to 13.2 million tonne valued at about Rs 71,600 crore. In 2020-21, India imported a similar quantity but the import bill jumped by 63 per cent and touched an alarming level of Rs 1.17 lakh crore due to hike in international prices of edible oils, it had said.

Earlier in the day, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Lok Sabha, "we will attend to the problem of edible oil price and also some of the essential edible items".

In order to rein in the prices of edible oil, the government has cut import duties on both refined and crude edible oils several times this year.