CPO prices to trade at high levels in first half

UOBKH believes that CPO prices may soften as palm oil production recovers towards the end-3Q21 and in turn, inventories could start to rebuild.

KUALA LUMPUR: The current higher-than-expected increase in the crude palm oil (CPO) price is likely to sustain for at least the second quarter of this year, driven by tight global vegoil supply and recovery demand.

As such, UOB Kay Hian (UOBKH) Research has raised its CPO average selling price for 2021 to RM3,000 per tonne from RM2,600 per tonne.

It said as of Jan 6, CPO future contract for both Jan and Feb hit RM4,000 per tonne due to stronger soyoil price and concerns of weak CPO production continuing in the first quarter of this year (1Q21).

The anticipated tight palm oil supplies in the first half of this year (1H21) coupled with expectations of Malaysia’s palm oil inventory level to be at a 13-year low are factors that support the current high prices.

“Malaysia palm oil inventory level was at 1.57 million tonnes in Nov 2020 and is expected to have hit a 13-year low of 1.18 million and 1.20 million tonnes by end-Dec 2020.

“Global palm oil production is expected to increase by 3.8 million tonnes in 2021, mainly from Indonesia, but supplies will not increase much as end-2020 stocks are significantly lower than 2019.

“From our channel check, the current supply situation in some estates is very tight during this rainy season and has led to low fresh fruit bunch (FFB) yield and low oil extraction rate, ” the research firm said.

Having said that, it is maintaining its market weight recommendation on the regional plantation sector as it remains concerned on the strong production recovery in the 2H21 and demand rationing with higher CPO prices.

UOBKH believes that CPO prices may soften as palm oil production recovers towards the end-3Q21 and in turn, inventories could start to rebuild.

Kenanga said the current CPO prices are unsustainable as improvement in weather could boost CPO and soybean output and a production downtrend could reverse this month. It said the current high commodity prices may also curb consumption, plus CPO-soybean oil premium would encourage buyers to switch to soybean oil especially during winter.

Meanwhile, the research house noted that data from cargo surveyors Intertek for Dec-2020 revealed a 19.6% month-on-month surge in exports, from a decline in November, mainly attributable to India, EU and other smaller consuming countries.

“We believe this is due to the eleventh-hour buying as countries scrambled to replenish their palm oil stocks from Malaysia before the reintroduction of CPO export tax (8%) in Jan 2021.

“We caution that this surge in demand is expected to normalise as it is just a one-off buying spurt to capitalise on the pre-CPO export tax period and the high CPO prices discourage overall consumption.

“Moreover, palm oil buyers typically switch to soybean oil during winter (Dec to March) given palm oil’s higher solidification point of around 35°C, ” Kenanga said.

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