Palm oil sentiment in 2023 cloudy amid uncertain supply and demand dynamics

Prices expected to decline, leading to market uncertainties

Due to mixed supply and demand dynamics, palm oil prices are expected to decline in 2023, leading to market uncertainties.

Malaysian palm oil futures for delivery in three months, the benchmark of crude palm oil (CPO) pricing, are forecast to be between MYR 3,500-5,000 per tonne through the first quarter of 2023, according to analysts at the recent Indonesia Palm Oil Conference (IPOC) in Bali this year.

The CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) Wan Aishah Binti Wan Hamid gave a similar forecast, “MPOC expects palm oil prices to trade between MYR 3,900-4,300 per tonne until March 2023, and MYR 3,800-4,200 per tonne until the second quarter of 2023.”

The price has hovered around MYR 3,900 per tonne in the past week after hitting MYR 7,268 per tonne in March.

The record highs were prompted after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted the delivery of sunflower oil, of which Ukraine is a top producer, causing other vegetable oil prices to soar.

Following the same vegetable oil crisis, Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer, imposed a three-week ban on its exports between April and May to secure domestic stocks.

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Palm oil production outlooks for 2023

Production for 2023 is expected to be lower than 2022 levels due to challenges posed by La Niña phenomenon.

The Indonesian output is now expected to be around 51-52 million tonnes, which is lower than earlier estimates of 52-53 million by the Secretary General of the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki), Eddy Martono.

“The high cost of fertilizers, which will result in lower usage thereof, may affect production,” Martono said.

In the near term, tropical storms in key producing nations, Malaysia and Indonesia, have disrupted supplies. Weather forecasts expect the storms to continue into the first quarter of 2023.

Higher than usual levels of rain caused by the La Nina weather phenomenon have also led to flooding in major palm oil planted areas both in Malaysia and Indonesia, affecting production, Wan Aishah said.

La Niña is still ongoing and is expected to extend into early 2023, which would hamper existing harvest and production; at the same time, it would boost palm oil outputs in the second and third quarters of 2023.

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