Malaysia's March palm oil output surges to weigh on prices


Malaysia's palm oil output surged in March, outpacing a robust export demand and lifting inventory for the first time this year, which cloud prospects of sharp gains in price of the commodity that is widely used in ice-creams to lipsticks.

Production of crude palm oil surged 16.3% month-on-month to 1.46 million tons from 1.26 million tons in February, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board said in a statement on Monday. That reading was sharply higher than a 5% month-on-month increase in a CIMB Investment Bank's survey of 24 plantation areas in Malaysia.

Palm oil futures fell to six-month low on Monday after the latest data, extending the loss to over 14% so far this year, while major plantation stocks suffered. The benchmark crude palm oil futures contract on Bursa Malaysia Derivatives for June delivery fell 2.6% to 2,592 ringgit a ton.

Genting Plantation, the palm oil unit of Malaysian gaming conglomerate Genting, fell 1% to 11.38 ringgit in Kuala Lumpur trading while Kuala Lumpur Kepong slipped 0.9% to 24.46 ringgit.

Analysts said palm oil output in Malaysia, the edible oil's second-largest producer in the world after Indonesia, will probably continue to gain pace in the months ahead due to recovery in tree yield. Hefty output of rival vegetable oils will also keep a lid on demand for palm oil.

"We think production will continue to climb," said David Ng, an analyst at Phillip Futures in Kuala Lumpur. "Prices will test 2,500 ringgit a ton over next couple of months, weighed down by rising production, while demand will be sluggish on rising soybean supplies."  

Palm oil stockpile swelled to 1.55 million tons as at March-end, a 6.5% growth from 1.46 million tons a month earlier, according to today's data. Exports meanwhile rose 14.3% in March to 1.27 million tons from 1.11 million tons in February.

Last month, Malaysia lowered the export duty on palm oil for April at 7.5% a ton against March's 8.0% levy. Exports of crude palm oil draw a multi-tier tax rate of between 4.5% and 8.5% that kicks in when prices exceed 2,250 ringgit a ton.

Palm oil prices, after a strong showing last year due to lower supplies tracking severe El Nino weather conditions, are expected to edge lower this year as output rises, analysts said.

U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual prospective planting report, which provides an early insight into incoming supply of U.S. crops this year, indicated a record-high planting across 89.5 million acres for soybeans, the most common substitute for palm oil.


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