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Commodity Markets to Remain Volatile – Economic Commission for Africa

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Commodities Exchange

Commodity markets in Africa are expected to remain volatile in the coming months following the persistence of Covid-19 constrains in the supply chain and other global economic pressures, says Stephen Karingi, Director of Regional Integration and Trade Division at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Mr Karingi was speaking at the ECA Price Watch session with African finance ministers on ‘Commodity prices amid COVID-19: prospects and policy implications for African economies.’ This is the 5th in the series of presentation sessions of price development in a specific sector compiled and disseminated by the ECA Price Watch Centre for Africa.

He said that African economies remain largely dependent on primary commodities exports and that although the commodity sector in most African economies is a significant source of national revenues, high dependence on the sector means high vulnerability to the vagaries of international markets and volatile prices passed on to local markets.

“High commodity dependence is associated with lower human development indicator across the developing world,” said Mr Karingi, adding “limited diversification and reliance on commodities sector are detrimental to long-term development in resource-rich countries.”

The ECA director noted that the commodities markets in Africa reacted strongly to COVID-19 in early 2020, owing to restrictions, economic slowdown and uncertain outlook. From mid-2020, significant rebound in commodities prices were above their pre COVID-19 levels with short term volatilities partly supported by expansive macroeconomic policies

On the commodity markets outlook, he said the upside risk factors for the continent include improved economic outlook/gradual recovery partly driven by successful vaccines campaigns and control of COVID-19 outbreaks; expansive monetary and fiscal policies to sustain economic activities like the recent $ 1.9 Trillion rescue Plan in the US and the € 750 Billion recovery effort in the EU area ; dynamic construction and infrastructure sectors worldwide to support markets of some commodities; high production costs to put upward pressure on food costs; low carbon energy and electric vehicles to sustain markets for products such as cobalt, lithium and nickel.

The downside risk factors include the gloomy economic prospects, especially in industrialized economies if the new COVID-19 variant is not controlled; and slower growth in major commodity importing countries.

According to Mr Karingi the potential impacts of recent surge in commodities prices will see commodity exporters record increases in economic outputs and fiscal revenues; price volatility to result in macroeconomic instability, trade balances, investment flows; and potential negative weight of high prices on net commodities importers, especially with regards to food and energy commodities.

He recommended that countries should have an overhaul policy -fiscal, trade, human capital – to reduce strong dependence to global commodity markets. African countries should also promote economic and fiscal diversification, including through the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

“AfCFTA will assist with Covid-19 recovery but expected benefits from AfCFTA will not be automatic. Member states must pursue ratification of the Agreement and implement it effectively,” he noted.

Oliver Chinganya, Director of the African Centre for Statistics (ACS) at the ECA, said while the macroeconomic effects are well known, the trends of commodity prices and their influence on the revenue of African countries require delving into deeper analysis to have good grasp of the situation.

“The recent commodity price movement raises questions on critical points that economic policies should consider both in the current situation as well as for longer term perspectives,” he said.

Mr Chinganya observed that over the last twenty months COVID-19, has exposed the vulnerability of African economies to global shocks and high dependence to remote world markets. This has led to disruptions in supply chains and slowdown in economic activities worldwide, which to some extent have affected the price of several commodities since the outbreak.

The last ECA Price Watch Centre presentation was held on June 22 and focused on Energy Prices in Africa: Transition Towards Clean Energy for Africa’s Industrialization.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Commodities

Nigeria to Suspend Import Levies on Food Crops to Ease Inflation Pressure

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Commodities Exchange

The Nigerian government has announced a series of measures aimed at curbing the surging cost of food.

Among the most significant steps is the suspension of import levies on key food crops, including wheat and corn, for a period of 180 days.

Agriculture and Food Security Minister Abubakar Kyari outlined the new measures in a statement released on Wednesday.

“The government is committed to stabilizing food prices and ensuring that essential commodities are accessible to all Nigerians,” Kyari said. “This temporary suspension of import duties will help increase the supply of crucial food items and alleviate some of the pressure on consumers.”

The government will also introduce a recommended retail price for imported foods to prevent price gouging and ensure that the benefits of the duty-free window reach the general populace.

Specific guidelines to enforce compliance with these measures are being finalized and will be issued in the coming days.

This move comes amid a wave of economic reforms initiated by President Bola Tinubu, who took office in May 2023. These reforms, including the devaluation of the naira and increased electricity tariffs, have contributed to the inflationary spiral, with food prices jumping 41% in May—the highest rate in 28 years.

The steep increase in prices, compounded by a weakening naira—the world’s worst-performing currency this year after the Lebanese pound—prompted the Central Bank of Nigeria to raise interest rates to a record high.

Last month, the government signaled its intention to introduce measures to curb inflation through a so-called Inflation Reduction and Price Stability Order.

Despite earlier interventions, such as the release of 42,000 tons of assorted food commodities and the purchase of 88,500 tons of milled rice, food prices have continued to rise.

“In some cases, these days, food items are becoming unavailable,” Kyari noted.

To further boost supply, the government plans to import 250,000 tons of semi-processed wheat and a similar amount of semi-processed corn. These imports will be distributed to small-scale processors and millers across the country to enhance local production capabilities.

The Nigerian government has attributed the rising food supply challenges to inadequate infrastructure, multiple taxes and levies, and profiteering by marketers and traders.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that at least 19 million Nigerians are food insecure, with the nation having the world’s largest population of citizens living in poverty after India.

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Cocoa Processing Slows Amid Soaring Bean Prices

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Cocoa processing slowed last quarter and industry experts warn a steeper decline is looming as the ripple effects of skyrocketing cocoa prices hit chocolatiers globally.

Despite an historic shortage that sent cocoa prices to record highs this year, the impact on chocolate makers has been somewhat delayed.

However, as stockpiles of pre-crisis beans dwindle, manufacturers will soon face the full brunt of the price surge.

Cocoa prices soared to an all-time high of over $11,000 per ton in April due to poor harvests in West Africa, a key production region. Though prices have slightly eased, they remain more than double what they were a year ago.

This surge has not yet fully translated into higher costs for chocolate makers, who had previously secured beans at lower prices.

However, with inventories running low, the need to replenish supplies at higher costs is expected to significantly impact cocoa grindings in the latter half of the year.

Jonathan Parkman, head of agricultural sales at Marex Group, explained, “The cheap stuff is beginning to drop off, and the expensive stuff is coming in. The worst of input inflation will affect the second half of this year.”

A recent Bloomberg survey of six analysts and traders revealed that second-quarter cocoa grindings likely fell from a year earlier.

Processing in Europe, the largest consumer of cocoa, is estimated to have declined by 2%, potentially marking a four-year low.

All six analysts anticipate a larger global decline in the second half of the year.

Nestlé SA has already signaled the challenges ahead. An executive from the company warned last month that as manufacturers face higher cocoa costs, they will have to pass these expenses onto consumers, leading to a potential decrease in chocolate consumption.

Darren Stetzel, vice president of soft commodities for Asia at broker StoneX, echoed this sentiment, noting, “We are more likely to see a significant change in the grind number in the second half of the year.”

The rising costs have forced some cocoa processors to shutter factories, particularly in West Africa. This, combined with the tight supply of beans, has made it difficult to gauge true demand.

Traders and analysts are closely watching upcoming cocoa grinding data and earnings reports from major chocolate companies, such as Barry Callebaut AG, for further insights into the market.

To adapt to the high costs and scarce supply, some chocolate manufacturers have started using substitutes like palm oil to maintain production levels.

However, this is seen as a temporary fix rather than a long-term solution.

The cocoa crunch underscores the vulnerability of global supply chains to regional disruptions. As the second half of the year unfolds, the chocolate industry will be forced to navigate these challenges, balancing the need to secure sufficient cocoa supplies with the pressures of maintaining affordability for consumers.

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Refiners Predict Petrol Prices to Fall to N300/Litre with Adequate Local Crude Supply

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The pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly known as petrol, could drop to N300 per litre once local production ramps up significantly, according to operators of modular refineries.

This projection hinges on the provision of sufficient crude oil to domestic refiners, which they say would undercut the exorbitant costs currently imposed by foreign refineries.

Speaking under the aegis of the Crude Oil Refinery Owners Association of Nigeria (CORAN), the refiners stressed the urgency for the government to ensure a steady supply of crude oil to local processing plants.

They argue that the reliance on imported petroleum products has been economically disadvantageous for Nigeria.

Eche Idoko, Publicity Secretary of CORAN, emphasized that the current high costs could be mitigated by boosting local production.

“If we begin to produce PMS in large volumes and ensure adequate crude oil supply, the pump price could be reduced to N300 per litre. This would prevent Nigerians from paying nearly N700 per litre and stop foreign refiners from profiting excessively at our expense,” Idoko stated.

The potential price drop follows the model seen with diesel, which experienced a significant price reduction once the Dangote Petroleum Refinery began its production.

“Diesel prices dropped from N1,700-N1,800 per litre to N1,200 per litre after Dangote started producing. This is a clear indication that local production can drastically reduce costs,” Idoko explained.

In a previous statement, Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, affirmed that Nigeria would cease importing petrol by June 2024 due to the Dangote Refinery’s capacity to meet local demand.

Dangote also expressed confidence in the refinery’s ability to cater to West Africa’s diesel and aviation fuel needs.

Challenges and Governmental Role

However, achieving this price reduction is contingent on several factors, including the provision of crude oil at the naira equivalent of its dollar rate.

CORAN has advocated for this approach, citing that it would bolster the naira and reduce the financial burden on refiners who currently buy crude in dollars.

The Nigerian government has shown some commitment towards this goal. Gbenga Komolafe, Chief Executive of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), confirmed that a framework has been developed to ensure consistent supply of crude oil to domestic refineries.

“We have created a template for the Domestic Crude Oil Supply Obligation to foster seamless supply to local refineries,” Komolafe stated.

Industry Reactions

Oil marketers have welcomed the potential for reduced petrol prices. Abubakar Maigandi, President of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), expressed optimism about the Dangote Refinery’s impact on petrol prices.

“We expect the price of locally produced PMS to be below the current NNPC rate of N565.50 per litre. Ideally, we are looking at a price around N500 per litre,” Maigandi noted.

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