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Commodity Titans See Record Profits in 2023 Amid Ukraine Fallout

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The world’s largest commodity trading firms have once again emerged triumphant, raking in record profits amidst the aftershocks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Despite some decline from previous years, industry leaders such as Vitol Group and Mercuria Energy Group Ltd. have reported staggering net profits to solidify their positions as dominant players in the global commodities market.

According to sources familiar with the matter, Vitol Group, one of the foremost players in the energy trading sector raked in $13 billion in net profit in 2023.

Meanwhile, its rival, Mercuria Energy Group Ltd., posted a profit of approximately $2.7 billion.

Though slightly lower compared to previous years, these figures represent a significant leap from historical earnings and underscore the resilience of these commodity titans in navigating turbulent market conditions.

The surge in profits extends what has been the most profitable period in the history of the commodity trading industry.

Over the past two years alone, the four leading privately-owned energy traders—Vitol, Trafigura Group, Mercuria, and Gunvor Group—have collectively generated net profits exceeding $50 billion. This astronomical increase dwarfs earnings from previous years, highlighting the unprecedented profitability of the sector.

Sebastian Barrack, head of commodities at Citadel, a leading hedge fund in the sector, described the profits accrued by the top commodity traders in the past two years as “really astronomical.”

Speaking at the FT Commodities Global Summit in Lausanne, Switzerland, Barrack emphasized the unparalleled success of these firms amid evolving market dynamics.

However, the soaring profits come at a time of heightened scrutiny from governments and regulators.

The fallout from the war in Ukraine has placed the industry under increased scrutiny, prompting concerns about energy security and the role of commodity traders in global markets.

Moreover, a series of investigations into corruption have cast a shadow over some of the largest trading houses, exposing a culture of wrongdoing within the industry.

Despite these challenges, the profits amassed by commodity traders have translated into immense wealth for a select group of individuals. Several traders and executives have become billionaires or multi-billionaires as a result of the industry’s unprecedented success.

Vitol, Trafigura, and Gunvor are primarily owned by a relatively small number of individuals, further concentrating wealth within the industry.

The remarkable profitability of commodity traders in 2023 reflects the resilience and adaptability of these firms in navigating complex market conditions.

Despite facing geopolitical uncertainties and regulatory scrutiny, the industry continues to thrive, buoyed by strategic investments and a diversified portfolio of trading activities. As commodity traders look ahead, the challenge lies in sustaining this momentum and navigating future uncertainties in an ever-evolving global landscape.

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 Spends $2.13bn on Food Imports in 2023

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Commodities Exchange

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) disbursed $2.13 billion for food imports in 2023.

This disclosure raises concerns about the nation’s ability to achieve self-sufficiency in food production.

Despite being touted as the “food basket of Africa,” Nigeria continues to rely heavily on imported food commodities.

The CBN’s quarterly statistics revealed a consistent demand for foreign currencies for food imports throughout the year.

The significant forex release for food imports stands in stark contrast to efforts by the Nigerian government to boost local agricultural production and reduce dependence on imports.

Factors such as inadequate infrastructure, insecurity, and climate change have hindered progress in the agricultural sector, leaving the nation vulnerable to fluctuations in global food prices.

A breakdown of the disbursements shows varying amounts allocated each month, with notable spikes observed in March and November.

Despite initiatives aimed at promoting local production, including the ban on food imports by the Federal Government, the nation’s appetite for foreign food products remains unabated.

The rise in food prices has also been a cause for concern, with the average price of imported food commodities reaching a 34% increase between April 2023 and April 2024.

This surge in prices has contributed to food inflation in Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting the region’s vulnerability to global market dynamics.

Experts warn that Nigeria’s heavy reliance on food imports poses significant risks to its economy and food security.

Despite efforts to promote local production, challenges such as insecurity and inadequate infrastructure continue to impede progress in the agricultural sector.

Commenting on the issue, Kabir Ibrahim, the National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, acknowledged that Nigeria has made strides in reducing its dependence on certain food items but expressed concern over the increasing trend in food imports.

He highlighted the challenges faced by farmers, including insecurity and flooding, which have affected food production and contributed to the rising import bill.

Yusuf Muda, the Managing Director of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, emphasized the need for accurate data to assess Nigeria’s food import dependency accurately.

He called for a comprehensive analysis of the types of food imported and their contribution to the nation’s food consumption.

As Nigeria grapples with the challenges of food security and economic stability, addressing the root causes of its reliance on food imports remains a critical priority.

Efforts to strengthen the agricultural sector, improve infrastructure, and mitigate climate change impacts are essential for achieving long-term food security and economic resilience.

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Nigeria to Achieve Fuel Independence Next Month, Says Dangote Refinery

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Dangote Refinery

Aliko Dangote, the Chairman of the Dangote Group and Africa’s wealthiest individual has announced that Nigeria is poised to attain fuel independence by next month.

Dangote made this assertion during his participation as a panelist at the Africa CEO Forum Annual Summit held in Kigali.

The announcement comes as a result of the Dangote Refinery’s ambitious plan, which aims to eliminate the need for Nigeria to import premium motor spirit (PMS), commonly known as petrol, within the next four to five weeks.

According to Dangote, the refinery already operational in supplying diesel and aviation fuel within Nigeria, possesses the capacity to fulfill the diesel and petrol requirements of West Africa and cater to the aviation fuel demands of the entire African continent.

Dangote expressed unwavering confidence in the refinery’s capabilities, stating, “Right now, Nigeria has no cause to import anything apart from gasoline and by sometime in June, within the next four or five weeks, Nigeria shouldn’t import anything like gasoline; not one drop of a litre.”

He said the refinery is committed to ensuring self-sufficiency in the continent’s energy needs, highlighting its capacity to significantly reduce or eliminate the need for fuel imports.

The Dangote Refinery’s accomplishment marks a pivotal moment in Nigeria’s quest for energy independence. With the refinery’s robust infrastructure and advanced technology, Nigeria is poised to become a net exporter of refined petroleum products, bolstering its economic stability and reducing its reliance on foreign imports.

Dangote’s remarks underscored the transformative potential of the refinery, not only for Nigeria but for the entire African continent.

He emphasized the refinery’s role in fostering regional energy security, asserting, “We have enough gasoline to give to at least the entire West Africa, diesel to give to West Africa and Central Africa. We have enough aviation fuel to give to the entire continent and also export some to Brazil and Mexico.”

Dangote further outlined the refinery’s broader vision for Africa’s economic advancement and detailed plans to expand its production capacity and diversify its product range.

He highlighted initiatives aimed at promoting self-sufficiency across various sectors, including agriculture and manufacturing, with the ultimate goal of reducing Africa’s dependence on imports and creating sustainable economic growth.

Dangote’s vision for a self-reliant Africa resonates with his long-standing commitment to investing in the continent’s development.

He concluded his remarks by reiterating the refinery’s mission to transform Africa’s energy landscape and drive socio-economic progress across the region.

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Cocoa Fever Sweeps Market: Prices Set to Break $15,000 per Ton Barrier

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Cocoa

The cocoa market is experiencing an unprecedented surge with prices poised to shatter the $15,000 per ton barrier.

The cocoa industry, already reeling from supply shortages and production declines in key regions, is now facing a frenzy of speculative trading and bullish forecasts.

At the recent World Cocoa Conference in Brussels, nine traders and analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expressed unanimous confidence in the continuation of the cocoa rally.

According to their predictions, New York futures could trade above $15,000 a ton before the year’s end, marking yet another milestone in the relentless ascent of cocoa prices.

The surge in cocoa prices has been fueled by a perfect storm of factors, including production declines in Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s largest cocoa producers.

Shortages of cocoa beans have left buyers scrambling for supplies and willing to pay exorbitant premiums, exacerbating the market tightness.

To cope with the supply crunch, Ivory Coast and Ghana have resorted to rolling over contracts totaling around 400,000 tons of cocoa, further exacerbating the scarcity.

Traders are increasingly turning to cocoa stocks held in exchanges in London and New York, despite concerns about their quality, as the shortage of high-quality beans intensifies.

Northon Coimbrao, director of sourcing at chocolatier Natra, noted that quality considerations have taken a backseat for most processors amid the supply crunch, leading them to accept cocoa from exchanges despite its perceived inferiority.

This shift in dynamics is expected to further deplete stocks and provide additional support to cocoa prices.

The cocoa rally has already seen prices surge by about 160% this year, nearing the $12,000 per ton mark in New York.

This meteoric rise has put significant pressure on traders and chocolate makers, who are grappling with rising margin calls and higher bean prices in the physical market.

Despite the challenges posed by soaring cocoa prices, stakeholders across the value chain have demonstrated a willingness to absorb the cost increases.

Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships, noted that the market has been able to pass on price increases from chocolate makers to consumers, highlighting the resilience of the cocoa industry.

However, concerns linger about the eventual impact of the price surge on consumers, with some chocolate makers still covered for supplies.

According to Steve Wateridge, head of research at Tropical Research Services, the full effects of the price increase may take six months to a year to materialize, posing a potential future challenge for consumers.

As the cocoa market continues to navigate uncharted territory all eyes remain on the unfolding developments, with traders, analysts, and industry stakeholders bracing for further volatility and potential record-breaking price levels in the days ahead.

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