At present, the Russo-Ukraine war has entered a white-hot stage, and the impact of the war on trade has become very large. Palm oil has also become the most expensive of the four major edible oils for the first time as buyers scramble to find alternatives as sunflower oil supplies from the Black Sea region are disrupted by the Russian-Ukraine war.
The Russia-Ukraine war has drastically changed the cost of international trade, insurance and freight. The price of crude palm oil shipped by India in March is about 1,925 US dollars per ton. By comparison, crude soybean oil was quoted at $1,865 a tonne, while rapeseed oil was quoted at around $1,900 a tonne. It should be noted that due to the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war, traders did not provide quotations for sunflower oil.
The Black Sea region is the world’s largest exporter of sunflower oil, which accounts for 60% of the world’s sunflower oil production and 76% of the world’s exports. Until the end of the war, Ukraine’s ports will remain closed.
Price-conscious consumers in Asia and Africa are likely to reduce their consumption of palm oil and switch to soyoil, traders said, given the historically high premium that palm oil commands over other vegetable oils.
Relevant professionals pointed out that buyers in Asia and Europe have increased their purchases of palm oil for front-month shipments to replace sunflower oil, thereby pushing up the price of palm oil to unreasonable levels. While they have the option to buy soyoil, physical shipments of soyoil are limited and they take longer to ship to Asia than palm oil.
Major soybean exporters such as Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay are expected to produce less this year due to dry weather.
Asian buyers have traditionally favored palm oil because of its low cost and short shipping times, said an edible oil trader in Kuala Lumpur. But palm oil now trades at a premium of more than $50 a tonne over soybean and sunflower oils.
However, the premium for palm oil is temporary and could fade in the coming weeks as buyers turn to soyoil for April shipment, the trader added.
An Indian trader said that Malaysia, the world’s second-largest palm oil producer, has been the biggest beneficiary due to restrictions on exports by Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer, which now accounts for most of the new demand for palm oil satisfy.