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Biosev prolongs cane crush, to exploit high ethanol, sugar prices

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Biosev underlined the progress that Brazilian cane crushers are making in extending their cane-crushing season to exploit higher product prices, as the sugar and ethanol giant unveiled a return to profit.

The Sao Paulo-based group, the world's second-largest cane crusher, said that it processed 7.92m tonnes of cane in the October-to-December quarter, a rise of 37% year on year, as it extended operations in a period which has historically seen mills in Brazil's key Centre South region begin seasonal closures.

The increase was driven by a near-doubling, to 4.1m tonnes, in volumes crushed at the group's Ribeirão Preto operations in Sao Paulo state, where the Leme unit also raised volumes, as did Biosev's Lagoa da Prata division in Minas Gerais.

Sao Paulo is the top producing state within the Centre South, which is responsible for some 90% of Brazilian sugar output, and also includes states such as Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul and Goias.

Extended season

Biosev, which is controlled by agricultural trading giant Louis Dreyfus, added that its Mato Grosso do Sul operations had bucked the trend and failed to keep up the crushing pace of a year before, thanks to "heavy rains" which slowed cane harvesting.

Processing volumes at the unit fell by 36% to 1.4m tonnes.

However, the group added that the Mato Grosso do Sul division would "continue to crush sugarcane throughout" the current, January-to-March quarter, an extension encouraged by the volume of cane yet to be harvested, and facilitated by a logistical shake-up.

"The extension of the crushing period is enabled by: first, the programme to alternate downtimes among the cluster's three mills, to optimise equipment maintenance; and secondly by the availability of sugar cane," Biosev said.

Record prices

The comments come the day after data from Unica, the Brazilian cane industry group, showed the overall Centre South cane crush reaching 3.93m tonnes in the second half of last month – a large amount for what has been historically a quiet time of year.

In the second half of January 2015, mills crushed 821,000 tonnes of cane.

The enthusiasm to extend the processing season reflects elevated prices of both the ethanol and sugar mills produce from cane.

Values of the biofuel have been lifted by tax changes and rises to gasoline prices, while the boost to Brazilian sugar values from a recovering world market has been enhanced by the weakness of the real, which inflates prices in local terms of assets denominated in dollars.

Sugar prices in Sao Paulo hit R$84.74 per 50-kilgramme bag last month, according to Cepea, up 66% year on year, and the highest on records going back to 2003.

Rocketing revenues

Higher prices encouraged ramped-up selling by Biosev, which lifted volumes of ethanol sales by 35% to 992,000 cubic metres, a level enhanced by digging deep into its inventories.

The group's ethanol stocks as of the end of December were, at 473,000 cubic metres, down 42% year on year.

Sugar sales saw a smaller rise, of 2.1% by volume, although with achieved prices up 34% year on year, revenues from the sweetener jumped to R$647.3m.

Group revenues for the quarter soared 64% to R$1.7bn, also boosted by soaring sales in the growing market for more sophisticated products, such as dry yeast and powdered molasses, made by cane mills.

Biosev reported earnings of R$162.8m, compared with a loss of R$86.2m a year before.

Bioseve shares stood 3.1% higher at a nine-month high of R$4.98 in afternoon deals in Sao Paulo.

By Mike Verdin

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