Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

Starting with company news from Asia, Olam International has reported a 17.5 percent rise in its third-quarter net profit to S$24.1 million for the three months ended September, compared with S$20.5 million a year ago.

Revenue grew 41.7 per cent to S$6.71 billion from the preceding year, as the company’s traded volume increased to 5.8 million tonnes from 3.8 million tonnes. Olam generated a free cash flow  of S$1.11 billion in the first nine months of this year, versus a negative S$150.5 million in the same period last year.

Olam also received the Singapore Apex Corporate Sustainability Award in the multinationals category. Meanwhile, the company’s CEO has been appointed as the new chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development for two years starting in 2018.

Wilmar International reported a net profit of $370 million for the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with $392.2 million for the same period a year ago. A stronger performance in its oilseeds and grains division was offset by lower results in the tropical oils and sugar businesses.

Wilmar’s chairman and chief executive has forecast a “satisfactory” performance for the tropical oils and sugar divisions in the current quarter, with the oilseeds and grains business should see its “good performance” continue.

The company is looking to list its China unit on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in the second half of 2019, eight years after the initial listing plan was first announced. Wilmar’s China operations contributes half of the group’s revenue and a significant portion of the profits.

Noble Group has started talks with stakeholders to restructure its debt and secure trade finances in a bid to keep its business running. Noble has almost $400 million of medium-term debt notes due March 2018 and $1.14 billion of senior unsecured revolving credit facilities and a term loan due May 2018, according to Fitch Ratings.

But while some companies contract, others expand. COFCO International plans to increase soybean sourcing in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state to 7.2 million tonnes from 4 million tonnes currently. Mato Grosso is home to 13 out of 19 elevators the Chinese trader operates in the country.

The chief executive of Glencore Agriculture discussed merger possibilities in a presentation to the Global Grain conference in Geneva. He said, “we have looked at three or four possibilities in our core area already this year but couldn’t reach agreement with the seller”. He added that Glencore remained focused on acquisitions for growth, and saw scope for consolidation in the grain sector due to excess capacity. “Finding value is the big challenge in the industry today,” he said.

In a presentation to the Morgan Stanley Global Chemicals and Agriculture Conference in Boston the chief executive officer of Bunge said he believed the grains industry is caught up in a cyclical period. However he indicated that some pieces of the agricultural chain may be experiencing a permanent shift.

“If there is one place in the world where we do see that there’s a shift and there is a structural amount of overcapacity that somehow has to be rationalized, it’s in the U.S. grain origination and export industry,” he said, adding U.S. grains “needs fixing.”

There is also over-capacity in Brazil’s sugarcane sector.  Biosev SA, the sugar and ethanol unit controlled by Louis Dreyfus Co, is idling its Maracaju mill in Mato Grosso do Sul state for an undetermined period of time. The cane processed at the mill will be transported to two other mills that Biosev operates in the region.

Raízen will also idle two mills in the main Sao Paulo cane belt for an initial period of two years, saying there will not be enough cane in the area where the plants are located. Raízen will transport the cane in the areas where the mills are located to other plants it operates in the country.

In response to “evolving customer preferences for antibiotic-free meat, milk and egg products,” Cargill has broken ground on a new 50 million dollar feed facility in Ohio that will be focused on antibiotic-free protein production. The plant will sit alongside Cargill’s existing facility on the site that will continue to produce medicated feed products. A spokesman said, “We understand our customers have different preferences and product requirements, and this new facility will help us deliver those choices.”

Continuing on the theme of consumer trends, the percentage of people in the US who consumed a sugary beverage on any given day has fallen to 60 percent for children and 50 percent for adults in 2014, down from 80 percent and 62 percent respectively in 2003. Consumption of fruit juices also dropped in the period, while water consumption was up for all age groups.

And…well, it had to happen: a headline this week read: “Forget everything you know – sugar could be good for you after all”.

Meanwhile, the New Food Economy has written a good piece on nutrition, bad science, and even worse journalism. The writer takes particular exception to a recent claim that giving up genetically modified organisms improves your health.

Lastly, Reuters has written a long read explaining Monsanto’s challenges with the weed killer dicamba.

Notes:

Chris Mahoney, CEO of Glencore Agriculture, will be speaking at the Commodity Conversations event in London on 6th June 2018.

Jonathan Kingsman’s new book, Commodity Conversations, is now available on Amazon

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