Commodity Conversations News Monitor

In a shock move, Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, will ban all palm oil exports from 28th April following a rise in the domestic price of cooking oil. The country’s finance minister admitted that the ban would hurt other countries but was necessary to prevent social unrest. Between them, Indonesia and Ukraine account for around 40 per cent of global vegoil exports. UK supermarkets have begun to limit vegoil purchases to a few bottles per customer.

Ukraine’s agriculture minister said 1.25 mln mt of grain and oilseeds were on commercial vessels blocked in Ukrainian seaports and may soon deteriorate. Ukraine’s state-owned railway halted the transport of some agricultural goods into Poland and Romania between the 16th and 18th of April, including grain and oilseeds. They gave no reason for the suspension.

Russia, meanwhile, continues to export grain, with almost 900,000 mt of wheat loaded in Russian ports so far this month, in line with the pace in March. Those shipments have spurred analysts to downgrade their outlook for EU wheat exports. The USDA has raised its estimate for Russian wheat exports to 33 million mt this season.

Ukraine’s agriculture ministry has said that as of 21st April, farmers had planted crops on more than 3 million hectares, around 21 per cent of the ministry’s forecast for spring crops.

Egypt’s Supply Ministry is considering adding India to sixteen other wheat import origins. It said that Indian wheat purchases would depend on suppliers “offering competitive bids.”

There is some debate about the quantity and quality of Indian wheat exports this season, and the BBC wonders whether India can feed the world. India’s government expects a record 111 mln mt of wheat, but others worry that poor weather and a shortage of fertilisers will result in a disappointing result.

Heavy snow could delay spring wheat and canola planting in Canada. South America’s farmers could plant more spring wheat in September, but the area is coming out of severe drought (particularly in Argentina), and farmers worry about fertiliser availability.

For the moment, at least, Russian fertiliser is still finding its way to Brazil, with at least 24 vessels carrying almost 678,000 mt of Russian fertilisers expected to reach Brazil in the next few weeks. Fertiliser prices, meanwhile, have made record highs.

The International Rice Research Institute has predicted that reduced fertiliser use could lead to a 10 per cent drop in rice yields next season. A shortage of fertilisers may create a hunger crisis in Peru. The country’s rice, potato and corn production could fall as much as 40 per cent. The Rockefeller Foundation has called for debt relief and emergency aid to poorer nations to avert a “massive, immediate food crisis” in poorer countries.

Bloomberg looks for a silver lining to the cloud and wonders whether the rising price of fertilisers will lead to farmers using them more efficiently. (That may happen, but the Guardian warns that the Sri Lankan government ban (now reversed) on imports of fertiliser and other chemical farm inputs led to a collapse in food production. Some poorer sectors of the population face starvation.)

Bloomberg also argues that the world is too dependent on wheat, rice and corn. The news agency cites a recent study that governments should repurpose agriculture subsidies to support the growing of foods that benefit human health and the environment.

The war in Ukraine is pushing up freight rates, with about 80 to 100 ships, mostly bulk carriers, stuck in Ukrainian waters. More than 450 ships are waiting to dock to load or unload goods in Chinese ports because of the Covid lockdown in Shanghai. Container freight is also tight, with a fifth of the world fleet tied up in port congestion.

In the first quarter of 2022, China imported 30 per cent fewer soybeans from the US than last year.

Indonesia’s government has opened a corruption case linked to the issuance of palm oil export permits, naming four suspects, including a trade ministry official and palm oil company executives.

Cargill has stopped buying palm oil from Sime Darby after the US government said it had found indicators of forced labour in the Malaysian grower. Ferrero has told its suppliers not to purchase palm oil from Sime Darby. (The company says Ferrero is not one of their customers.)

Nestlé increased product prices by an average of 5.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year. Procter & Gamble increased prices by 5 per cent in the same period, while Heineken, the world’s second-largest brewer, increased prices by 5.2 per cent.

Dan Saladino, a BBC food journalist, has written a book called “Eating to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them.” (The title says it all.)

The Guardian argues that our farmers and food systems are not ready for climate change and believes that seed banks are the last line of defence against a threatening global food crisis. However, help may also be at hand from rubisco, an ancient protein that could help crops cope with higher temperatures.

The FT reports on a new study that argues that asking people to become vegetarian will not be sufficient to curb GHG emissions. It suggests that a better solution lies in reducing methane emissions from livestock.

The Dallas Fed believes that commodity margin calls pose a macroeconomic risk. The FT published an opinion piece arguing the same thing. The newspaper says that the margin squeeze and higher commodity prices will favour the more prominent trading companies.

Wall Street banks’ commodities trading exposures are rising because of higher prices. Both Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase reported an increase in their daily VAR.

The US president has said that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) will issue an emergency waiver permitting year-round sales of E15 gasoline, which contains 15 per cent ethanol.

Has the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine killed global supply chains?  Newsweek believes so.

Finally, if you want to know how an exiled Mexican president (who returned to office eleven times) invented chewing gum, this podcast is for you!

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