Source: USDA news release

The United States imports vast quantities of vegetable oils for a wide array of end uses–from cooking oils to plastics. From fiscal years 2013 to 2020, imports ranged from total inflation-adjusted values of $6.3 billion (2019) to $7.4 billion (2017). In 2021, imports exceeded $8.0 billion before surging to $10.9 billion in 2022.

Much of the increased demand in 2022 came from expanded production of biodiesel and renewable diesel–agriculturally based transportation fuels that often use vegetable oils as feedstocks. Production of these biofuels grew from 1.5 billion gallons in 2013 to 3.1 billion gallons in 2022.

While biofuels and other industrial processes have increased demand for vegetable oils, imported vegetable oils are mostly used for food, with 70 percent of canola, 85 percent of palm, and 100 percent of olive oil consumed as food. These oils comprised the top three imports in 2022 led by canola oil at $3.6 billion, palm oil at $2.2 billion, and olive oil at $1.7 billion. U.S. vegetable oil imports originate from a few major suppliers.

In 2022, 96 percent of canola oil imports came from Canada, 82 percent of palm oil came from Indonesia, and 78 percent of olive oil came from the European Union. USDA forecasts vegetable oil imports at $11 billion in fiscal year 2023.