,palm oil Thomas Mielke
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THE shampoo you use to wash your hair, the toothpaste you use every morning and the bread you had for breakfast all share a similar ingredient – palm oil.
Like it or not, the product of what used to be an ornament tree in Malaysia in the 1870s is now part of everyone’s everyday lives, being in almost 50% of packaged products due to its versatile nature.
Being one of the world’s largest palm oil exporters, Malaysia’s undisputable strength in palm oil comes in the form of a strong upstream presence.
Out of 47 listed companies in the palm oil business, 26 are pure upstream players, 19 have both upstream and downstream operations while two are purely downstream.
In 2020, Malaysia accounted for 25.8% of the world’s palm oil production and 34.3% of the world’s exports.
Labour issue: Worker shortage in oil palm plantations in Malaysia is believed to have ballooned to about 50,000, resulting in a loss of around 25% in palm oil yield. — Bloomberg
China and India were Malaysia’s top export destinations last year at 2.73 million tonnes each but in terms of change, this was a 9.64% year-on-year (y-o-y) increase and a 38.16% y-o-y decline to India.
This time around, palm oil is hoarding all the limelight once again because the prices of crude palm oil (CPO) have sprung up to levels not seen since 2008.
The benchmark CPO futures contract on Bursa Derivatives was traded at around RM3,900 a tonne yesterday. It hit its peak on March 15 at RM4,138 per tonne.
Two factors come into play here, one of which is of course the shortfall in production that has led to supply disruptions as demand outstrips supply and secondly, the stronger performance of other oil seeds such as soybean oil.
If one were to observe the movement of the CPO prices when they peak during strong rallies, it is sure to be followed by a free fall after that.
The CPO futures contract propelled to RM2,557 on May 18,1998, crashing to only RM988 a year later on June 30,1999.
In 2008, it climbed to RM4,330 per tonne on March 3, only to plunge to RM1,390 seven months later on Oct 24.
It hit a high of RM3,955 on Feb 11,2011 and came down to RM2,793 on Oct 10.
So when the CPO price started to touch stratospheric heights again this time, the sustainability at such a level comes into question again.
True to the saying that what goes up must come down, most experts in the field are bearish.
The direction of the CPO price took centre stage of the discussions during the recently concluded Virtual Palm and Lauric Oils Price Outlook Conference (POC) 2021.