Commodity Conversations News Monitor

“In war, truth is the first casualty.” So wrote Aeschylus, a Greek tragic dramatist, in the 5th century BCE.  His words are as valid now as they were then. In the western world, we are fortunate to have strong independent media. We should never take it for granted.

Commodity exports from the Black Sea have been thrown into chaos after Russia’s invasion forced ports and railways to close. Ships loading in Ukraine have been told they will be allowed to leave, but those waiting to berth can’t dock. A missile hit a vessel in Ukrainian waters but sailed into Rumanian waters unaided. At least one other ship has suffered damage.

Bunge and ADM have suspended operations in Ukraine following the invasion, and some European banks have imposed restrictions on commodity-trade finance linked to Russia and Ukraine. At least two of China’s largest state-owned banks are also restricting financing for Chinese purchases of Russian commodities.

Chicago corn and wheat prices surged following the invasion, and analysts worry that the sky is now the limit for food inflation. Unsurprisingly, investors are pumping more money into commodity funds than at any time in the last decade.

China confirmed that it had lifted restrictions on the imports of Russian wheat, a decision taken before the winter Olympics in Beijing.

Russia is a significant fertiliser exporter, and prices for nitrogen fertiliser in New Orleans surged 25 per cent following the invasion. Fertiliser shortages may hit the US growing season, and the US Agriculture Secretary warned fertiliser companies against taking an “unfair advantage” of the Ukraine conflict.

A backlog of vessels waiting to load soybeans from some Brazilian ports is stretching to near-record lengths, with some ships waiting for more than 40 days, significantly longer than the seven to 15 days that’s typical. Meanwhile, ADM has shipped a record (for the port) 84,802 tonnes of soybeans in a single vessel from the Ponta da Montanha Grain Terminal (TGPM) in the northern Brazilian city of Barcarena.

The Loadstar has a well-written piece that asks whether the container shipping crisis is coming to an end. The US Transportation Department is awarding $450 million in grants for US port-related projects to bolster capacity and improve the movement of goods. Platts hosts a discussion on potential applications for ammonia as a maritime fuel.

The Buenos Aires Grain Exchange has warned that Argentina’s crop yields for corn and soybeans could continue to fall owing to a lack of rain. Paraguay’s oilseed processors are lobbying the government to allow duty-free soybean imports for the first time to keep their mills running as a drought slashes local production.

Bunge has signed a definitive agreement with Chevron to create a 50/50 joint venture to produce renewable fuels and develop lower carbon intensity feedstocks. The financial terms of the transaction, first announced in September 2021, were not disclosed.

The US EPA has told Reuters that it is committed to increasing the use of biofuels, but the industry is still anxiously awaiting the administration to finalise specific blending goals.

Hydrous ethanol sales in the Center-South region of Brazil rose 22 per cent in the first half of February compared with the same period a month earlier, a trend that may continue with energy prices rising.

Beyond Meat is not real meat, but it bleeds cash. The company’s stock dropped 11 per cent after it reported losses of $80.4 million in the last three months of 2021 — more than triple the loss of a year before. The company blamed weak US retail sales, increased discounts, and a loss of market share. An analyst from J.P. Morgan called Beyond Meat “the worst performer in our universe in the last year.”

Draft new rules (seen by Bloomberg) would allow victims to sue for compensation in a proposed EU crackdown on human rights abuses and environmental breaches in supply chains. Right on cue, the World Economic Forum writes that mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence are now essential for any business.

Ivory Coast’s cocoa regulator, Le Conseil du Cafe-Cacao, plans to start a pilot program in April to trace cocoa from plantation to ports. For years, agronomists have told cocoa and coffee farmers in West Africa to uproot trees from their fields. This video (in French) argues that advice is misguided and explains how trees fertilise and protect surrounding crops.

The Inter-American Development Bank has shelved a plan to lead a $200 million syndicated loan for Marfrig Global Foods amid growing concern over deforestation in the Amazon.

The US and the UAE are seeking an additional $4 billion investment for the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) on top of the $4 billion that they agreed when they launched the initiative last November.

The sustainability charity Wrap has asked supermarkets to stop selling fresh produce in plastic packaging. They argue that it does not make them last longer and adds to pollution and food waste. Next week, world governments will gather in Nairobi to discuss a global treaty to combat plastic waste.

The UK’s National Farming Union President has warned that farmers in England and Wales ‘face toughest times in a generation’. She said that government ministers “have no understanding of how food production works” and have introduced “completely contradictory policies” through the lack of a post-Brexit plan for UK farming.

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