The Oil Rally Makes Dessert Expensive When Cane Turns Into Fuelhttp://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-05/the-oil-rally-could-make-you-think-twice-about-ordering-dessert
June 07, 2016 at 12:38 PM
This year’s rebound in oil prices has an unlikely victim: the dessert plate.
To understand why, look no further than Usina Batatais SA, a sugar-cane processor in Sao Paulo. Enticing fuel margins mean the company is using a bigger cane crop to produce more ethanol, while keeping its raw sugar output unchanged. Even after sugar prices surged recently, “there’s no time and cane anymore” to make a switch, said Bernardo Biagi, Batatais’ president.
It’s a story that’s being played out across Brazil, the world’s biggest sugar producer and exporter. That could exacerbate the global supply deficit after droughts already hurt crops in India and Thailand, the No. 2 shipper. Prices are trading near the highest in almost two years, and hedge funds are making a record bet that the rally will continue.
“The ethanol margins have been good, and it’s been directing more of the sugar cane in the direction of the ethanol industry,” said Arlan Suderman, the chief commodities economist at INTL FCStone Financial Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri. “If you look at global sugar production, the Center-South area of Brazil is really the only bright spot in world production right now. Therefore, the world’s looking to them.”
Raw sugar has jumped 24 percent this year on ICE Futures U.S. in New York. Prices on Monday touched 19.42 cents a pound, the highest for a most-active futures contract since October 2013. Hedge funds and other large speculators boosted their net-long holdings in the commodity by 4.9 percent to 222,686 U.S. futures and options in the week ended May 31, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed three days later. That’s the highest since the data begins in 2006.
Analysts and traders are also expecting more price gains. Futures could reach 19.9 cents by the end of the year, according to the average of 15 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. More than half of the participants predicted that the sweetener will touch 20 cents, which would be the highest since October 2013.
“Weather issues and the shortage will keep the market in an uptrend,” said Donald Selkin, the chief market strategist at National Securities Corp. in New York who helps manage about $3 billion. He predicts July futures will reach 20 cents within a few weeks.
Prices have already advanced for four straight months amid drought conditions in Thailand and India, the second-biggest grower. For farmers such as 51-year-old Prabhu Chougule, who grows sugar cane and peanuts on 45 acres in India’s state of Maharashtra, the dry weather can have devastating consequences for his crops. Without rains coming soon, he estimates that his output will drop 25 percent from last season.
“The situation is really bad,” Chougule said. “Everyone is anxiously looking at the sky waiting for the rain.”
While output was declining from Asia, analysts had thought that a big crop from Brazil could help buoy supplies. That outlook has changed amid worsening expectations for Indian and Thai output. Exports from South America won’t be enough to balance the global market, according to Citigroup Inc. On May 18, Brisbane, Australia-based Green Pool Commodity Specialist Ltd. raised its projection for this season’s global deficit by 28 percent. The firm also increased its outlook for next year’s shortfall.
Adding to the supply squeeze, heavy rains are now disrupting harvesting and shipping in Brazil. The port of Santos had its wettest May since at least 2013. The showers also hampered cane crushing in the Center-South region during the second half of May, said Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, technical director at industry group Unica.
Still, the shipping backlog in Brazil could prove to be temporary. At the same time, the recent gains for sugar prices could prompt millers to rethink their move to produce more ethanol, and instead turn to the sweetener. In the second half of May, processors used 56 percent of the cane crop to make ethanol, down from 62 percent a year earlier, data from industry group Unica showed June 1. Also helping to ease the deficit, demand growth for the sweetener has been tepid amid slowing global economies and consumer health concerns.
The outlook “is really two-pronged,” said Lara Magnusen, a La Jolla, California-based portfolio manager at Altegris Advisors, which manages $2.44 billion. “You’ve had this crazy weather driven by El Nino, which has really hit India in particular. Brazil has actually produced quite a bit. But overall we still have a sugar deficit, and that’s assuming average demand. If we start to see China ratchet up their imports, then you could really see sugar prices take off. By the same token, if demand stumbles into China -- that could spell trouble for sugar.”
July 9, 2018
Surging ethanol stockpiles and tumbling prices for the biofuel risk bringing back more sugar production in top grower Brazil. “Prices have been coming down, ethanol stocks are building. Demand is strong but is probably not sufficient to clear the stocks,” said Tom McNeill, a director at Brisbane, Australia-based researcher Green Pool Commodity Specialists. “I think this assumption that everyone has made that maximum ethanol is absolutely locked in could be challenged within the next three months.”Read More
May 4, 2018
July raw sugar settled down 0.06 cent, or 0.5 percent, at 11.69 cents per lb. Focus remained on a global supply glut, with commodity analyst Green Pool forecasting a combined sugar surplus of almost 25 million tonnes for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.Read More
May 3, 2018
The world’s sugar traders are experiencing the biggest ever global surplus. That’s according to Green Pool Commodity Specialists, which expects the glut to reach 18.4 million metric tons this season. The Brisbane, Australia-based researcher boosted its estimate by almost a quarter because of a massive increase in the sugar-cane area and yields in India, the No. 2 producer.Read More
May 2, 2018
For sugar, there’s no sweet ending in sight after a long period of declining prices. Australia-based consultancy Green Pool recently upped its surplus estimate by 43% to almost 15 million tons. The International Sugar Organization, the global trade body, sees a surplus of 5.2 million tons.Read More
March 29, 2018
Green Pool signalled further weakness ahead of sugar prices, lifting its forecasts for the world production surpluses this season and in 2018-19, and heralding a further one in 2019-20.Read More
February 23, 2018
Global sugar prices have tumbled about 33 percent in the past year on a global surplus as production increases in Europe and India. ISMA last month raised its 2017-18 sugar output estimate 4 percent to 26.1 million tons, the highest in three years. Green Pool Commodity Specialists this week forecast Indian production at 28.1 million tons, with expectations of an equal or better crop next season.Read More
February 6, 2018
Green Pool hinted at downbeat prospects for sugar prices as it raised its estimate for the production surplus for this season, forecast another stockbuild in 2018-19, and said a third one could be in the offing.Read More
January 3, 2018
March raw sugar settled down 0.02 cent, or 0.13 percent, at 15.31 cents per lb after peaking at 15.37 cents, its highest since Nov. 28. But focus on bearish fundamentals returned after closely-watched commodity analyst Green Pool on Wednesday raised its projections of a global surplus in 2017/18 to 10.43 million tonnes, up from a forecast of 9.8 million. [nL8N1OY1Q7Read More
January 3, 2018
Green Pool hinted at the potential for sugar price weakness as it lifted to a 15-year high its forecast for the extent of supplies of the sweetener, citing strong production prospects in the likes of India and Thailand. The Australian-based analysis group raised by 629,000 tonnes to 10.43m tonnes its forecast for the world sugar production surplus in 2017-18 - while reducing by 664,000 tonnes to 1.11m tonnes its estimate for the output shortfall last season.Read More