Palm oil exports from Malaysia, the world's second largest producer, may climb as much as 10% this year, expanding faster than local output and helping to drive down stockpiles and support prices, an industry group forecast.
Exports may climb to a record 19.8 million tonnes from last year's 18 million tonnes as demand in India and China gained, Malaysian Palm Oil Council chairman Lee Yeow Chor, said in an interview. The price may advance 3.9% to RM3,300 per tonne in 2012, according to Lee.
Declining stockpiles in Malaysia, which have held above 2 million tonnes since September, may help futures extend a 15% rally since October, boosting profits at growers IOI Corp Bhd and Sime Darby Bhd. Credit Suisse Group AG raised its forecast for 2012 prices 28% to RM3,200 on Feb 1, saying supplies will be capped, while demand remains strong.
“The market hasn't completely accounted for the amount of vegetable oil demand that's going to be shifting to palm oil this year,” said Erin FitzPatrick, an analyst at Rabobank International in London. Prices were holding above RM3,000 on prospects for lower global soybean oil and rapeseed oil output, FitzPatrick said by phone on Wednesday.
The April-delivery contract fell as much as 1% to RM3,166 on the Malaysia Derivatives Exchange yesterday before trading at RM3,177 at 11.55am. While the price is little changed this year, it's rallied from a 12-month low of RM2,754 on Oct 6.
Dorab Mistry, director of Godrej International Ltd, has forecast a bull market in palm oil this year as demand growth outstrips the projected increase in production. The price may reach RM4,000 by June, Mistry forecast in December.
Global soybean oil exports may decline to 8.56 million tonnes this year from 9.5 million in 2011, according to a forecast from the US Department of Agriculture. Months of dryness caused by the La Nina weather pattern have parched crops in South America. Palm-oil stockpiles may drop to “healthy levels” from April as shipments from Malaysia rose on growing production after the seasonally low-output months of January and February, Lee said. Global vegetable oil demand may grow by 3% to 5% in 2012, said Lee, who's also executive director at IOI Corp, Malaysia's second largest listed producer.
“If we can reduce the stocks to around 1.7 million tonnes, it will be a very positive development,” said Lee, who forecast an increase in shipments of 5% to 10%. Growing demand from China, India and African countries would offset slowing imports in European countries caused by a reduction in biofuel usage and sustainability issues, he said.
Malaysian output would show “moderate” growth of less than 5% in 2012 after a “significant” increase last year, Lee said.
Output climbed 11% to 18.9 million tonnes in 2011 from 16.99 million tonnes a year earlier, according to data from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board. Production may be 19 million tonnes this year as more plantations mature, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Bernard Dompok said on Jan 19.
Malaysia was promoting new uses for the tropical oil, which included anti-oxidants such as tocotrienols and phenolics, as well as furniture made from the wood from the oil palm's trunk, said Lee.
Indonesia, the biggest producer, cut the maximum tax rate on crude palm oil exports last October and imposed lower duties on processed products to help the local refining industry.
If the export duty in Indonesia was helping its mid-tier refineries, one strategy for Malaysia was to go further up the so-called value chain, said Lee. “Those are very competitive” products, he said, referring to output such as oleochemicals, food esters and specialty chemicals and fats.