Commodity Conversations News Monitor

A tonne of fertilizer is now more expensive than a tonne of rice. With fertilizer accounting for as much as 70 per cent of rice’s production cost, there are concerns that rice prices will have to increase as a result.

However, India is currently harvesting a record summer-sown rice crop of 107 million tonnes, bringing combined summer and winter rice production to 125 million, or nearly 25 per cent of global rice output, its largest ever. It should allow India to repeat, or even surpass, last year’s record rice exports of 20 million tonnes.

Malaysia faces reduced palm oil production this year due to a shortage of workers. A lack of skilled harvesters has left fresh fruit bunches rotting on trees, preventing farmers from capitalizing on palm’s recent price rally. Palm oil, the world’s most consumed vegetable oil, has soared more than 30 per cent this year, while soybean oil is up almost 50 per cent.

However, soybean prices ended October with their sixth straight monthly loss, the worst run since May 1998 when, like this year, US farmers were heading into a record harvest. Demand for this year’s bumper crop is in question as the sales pace to China lags expectations.

Durum wheat prices in western Canada have risen more than 60 per cent since August and are currently trading near their highest level since at least 2015.  Drought has impacted North American production. Output in Canada, a top exporter, shrunk by nearly half this year and the US harvest is the smallest in 60 years.

Bloomberg warns that European energy prices may increase to a point where it becomes too expensive for farmers to dry their corn crops. Gas suppliers have told French farmers to prepare for shortages, use less fuel and postpone harvesting. The increase in gas prices is also contributing to a slower corn harvest than last year in Ukraine.

North Africa is feeling the impact of higher food costs. The price hikes also come at a time when many North African economies are struggling. In Morocco, the government has suspended an import tax on durum and soft wheat, while Egypt, the world’s top wheat importer, is paying the most in at least five years for wheat and is reportedly talking with international banks over a plan to hedge their wheat purchases. However, Algeria’s agriculture minister said supplies are plentiful and blamed speculators for a spike in foodstuff prices.

Robusta coffee prices are up 60 per cent in London this year. They are at their highest level in more than four years as adverse weather hurt crops and logistics headaches, including a shortage of shipping containers, curbed exports from Vietnam.

Meanwhile, lumber prices are once again moving higher.

Freightwaves warns that we should not expect any relief from costly container shipping rates. It argues that the recent levelling off in rates was temporary and that we will have to wait until the Chinese New Year for rates to start to trend lower. The FT worries that supply chain logjams could last into 2023.

The backlogs are playing havoc on liner schedules. Two out of every three vessels were behind schedule in September, with an average arrival delay of seven days.

Several ports in the US are overrun with containers and anchored containerships. There are more than 70 containerships anchored in California’s San Pedro Bay and another 28 vessels awaiting berths at Georgia’s Port of Savannah. Los Angeles and Long Beach ports announced they would levy a surcharge on containers that overstay their welcome. The tax will start at $100 per container and increase in $100 increments each day.

Maersk has warned clients of further supply chain disruptions from China’s ongoing power shortages. Currently, 20 out of 31 provinces in China are subject to electricity rationing and power prices could rise 20 per cent from current levels.

In company news, Bunge reported solid earnings and sales in their third quarter, posting income of $653 million, up nearly 150 per cent from $262 million from the third quarter a year ago. Sales were $14.12 billion, up 39 per cent from $10.16 billion a year ago. Bunge has raised its adjusted earnings-per-share outlook to at least $11.50 per share, up from $8.50 previously.

ADM plans to cut more than half of its capacity for corn ethanol for cars and transition it to clean jet fuel production, working with renewable fuel maker Gevo Inc. The move comes as the popularity of electric vehicles raises questions about the future growth of ethanol for cars. At the same time, demand for sustainable jet fuel is expected to boom as the aviation industry tries to reduce carbon emissions.

Plant-based meat producer Impossible Foods is looking to raise about $500 million, which would push the company’s valuation to $7 billion, higher than its chief rival, Beyond Meat, at roughly $6.2 billion.

In partnership with Yum China Holdings, Lavazza plans to have 1,000 coffee outlets in China by 2025. Yum owns 65 per cent of the joint venture, and Lavazza holds the rest. The partners are injecting $200 million into the company.

The Guardian argues the world’s meat and dairy companies are failing to act on methane emissions. The newspaper writes that livestock generates about 32 per cent of anthropogenic methane. Changing Markets has published a new report on the issue. The European Parliament has asked the EU to impose binding targets on countries to cut methane emissions, setting the scene for legislation Brussels will propose later this year.

The FT wonders (again) whether adding seaweed to animal feed will help reduce methane emissions. Bloomberg reports that the US dairy herd shrank by 85,000 cows between June and September, the most significant four-month drop since 2009 as the cost of feeding the cows has risen to uneconomic levels.

Brazil’s Vice President has announced plans to bring forward the country’s 2030 goal of ending illegal deforestation by two or three years. He also said forest fires in the Amazon region had dropped by about 40 per cent this year.

Reuters has an interesting article on the race to persuade the world’s farmers to sequester carbon.

Finally, China has called for the removal of farm subsidies in some developed countries as part of Beijing’s push for the World Trade Organization reform.

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One Reply to “Commodity Conversations News Monitor”

  1. Hi Jonathan, commodity conversations is always a great read. Thank you! Reading today’s report, have difficulty to reckon that fertilizer makes up 70% of rice production costs. Is that truly the case? In another field, visiting France in recent days, I was surprised to see so much corn yet to be harvested end of October. You gave me the clue! Regards.

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