Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

Nestle reported a 3.7% growth in organic sales over the first three quarters of the financial year.  Strong global Purina PetCare sales and demand for Starbucks products in North America helped offset disappointing sales for beverages, especially in the water segment. As a result, the CEO said Nestle Waters was being restructured so that it could be managed locally, instead of globally as is currently the case. The restructure should help identify consumer trends and higher-margin products amid an increasingly competitive market. 

The focus on increasing the group’s “local responsiveness” will take place across all segments thanks to a new strategy and business unit, the CEO said, adding that “In a period of rapid change in our industry, it will be more important than ever to recognize key trends early and to act on them fast.” Nestle will be looking actively to acquire more businesses aligned with this new strategy, the group said. It may also spend USD 20 billion in 2020-22 in share buybacks, thanks in part to the USD 10 billion generated from the sale of its skincare business earlier this month. Looking forward, a company official forecast that the world population will have to reduce its consumption of sugar, salt and meat to switch to vegetables and cereals as a result of the limited resources combined with the obesity epidemic. 

Danone lowered its 2019 growth forecast slightly after disappointing quarterly results in part due to cool summer temperatures in Europe which led to lower sales in its Waters Europe segment. Overall, however, sales grew 3.7% in the quarter, up from 3% last year, thanks to a strong growth in the specialised and early-life nutrition units which grew by 10%, mostly driven by the demand from China. 

The group’s investment arm, Danone Manifesto Ventures, bought a minority shareholding in organic plant-based food company Forager Project. This is part of its goal to increase revenue from plant-based products to USD 5.7 billion by 2025, from USD 1.9 billion currently. In Asia, meanwhile, the company launched a ‘One Person, One Voice, One Share’ initiative which aims to get employees involved in the Danone 2030 roadmap – designed to be in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Cargill launched a new platform, Feeding Intelligence, to help keep ranchers on top of the information, news and technology that impact their business. The group is streamlining its animal feed business in the US, resulting in the closure of two plants in New York in North Carolina. On the other hand, it will invest USD 225 million to expand and upgrade its soybean crushing assets in Ohio. 

In India, Cargill successfully removed 225mt of annual plastic packaging by replacing paper labels with mould-labeling on its edible oil bottles and reformulating the plastic it uses so that 90% of it is recyclable. On the sweetener side, Cargill announced that it was able to make the first liquid ingredient stevia. Stevia previously could not be used to make a concentrate, which limited its ability to function in beverages and energy drinks. 

Olam is in the process of acquiring the California-based almond company Hughson Nut Inc (HNI) as part of its aim to have a vertically integrated almond supply chain and add to its existing businesses in Australia and Vietnam. In Nigeria, meanwhile, shareholders gave the green light to Olam’s offer to buy the remaining shares in Dangote Flour Mills for USD 331 million. Olam also announced it has been granted a USD 1.5 billion revolving credit facility in addition to the USD 525 million sustainability loan it secured earlier this month. 

In Brazil, the agriculture minister said that COFCO was planning on investing in four sugar mills in the country. She urged the group to also invest in railway and ports to ease export logistics. 

In an unusual twist, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana are threatening to scrap existing sustainability certification programs for cocoa if buyers don’t contract next year’s crop at a premium of USD 400/mt over October 2020 futures. Sources quoted by Bloomberg say that while most buyers have, in theory, accepted the premium many have yet to contract the crop as they don’t know how to hedge that premium. The West African countries call the premium a “living income differential” (LID) to offset the collapse in world prices and argue that it is more effective in helping farmers than sustainability certification premiums. However, some have pointed out that the LID, too, has failed to be passed on to farmers. Regardless, Nigeria and Cameroon are looking to follow suit while Peru could impose a minimum price. 

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