China is the biggest market for oils and fats, with consumption indicating a steadily increasing trend from 25.7 million tonnes in 2005 to 36.6 million tonnes in 2015. Palm oil is one of the largest volume of oils and fats consumed by China, representing 8.0% of the total consumption for 2015. Palm oil is thus the largest component of the oils and fats imports, particularly for the instant noodles industry. The price of palm oil substitutes, especially soyabean oil, highly influences the demand for palm oil. China’s huge crushing capacity to satisfy the demand for soyabean meal also means that there is a necessity to import large quantities of soyabean, which subsequently increases the local supply of soyabean oil, thus affecting the demand for palm oil. This study attempted to examine the short-run and the long-run relationships between China’s palm oil imports and palm oil prices, soyabean oil prices, soyabean meal prices and domestic income, using the Autoregressive Distributed Lag (ARDL) method with data from 1980 to 2015. The result of the bound test indicates that there is a long-run relationship between the studied variables. The empirical results reveal that domestic income, measured by the gross domestic product (GDP), and the difference between soyabean oil and palm oil prices have positive significant relationships with palm oil demand in China in the long-run. At the same time, soyabean meal price show a significant negative relationship with palm oil demand in China. The result indicates that GDP, the difference between soyabean oil and palm oil prices, and soyabean meal price play important roles in determining palm oil demand in China.
Keywords: palm oil, soyabean, China, ARDL, GDP