Anglo-Eastern Plantations reported a drop in palm oil production volumes, and said that some peers had suffered one too, contrasting with headline data showing a rising trend in Indonesian output.
The London-listed group - which has a 128,000-hectare plantation portfolio in Malaysia and, mainly, Indonesia - said that its production of crude palm oil in the first five months of 2019 fell by 9% year on year to 149,100 tonnes.
The decline reflected a drop of 5% to 392,000 tonnes in output of palm fresh fruit bunches from the group’s plantations.
Anglo-Eastern noted “lower crop production observed in Riau and Bengkulu”, in central Sumatra, adding that this “was similarly experienced by other planters”.
“Harvesting in Indonesia was also interrupted by the [Indonesian] presidential election and a higher number of public holidays in April and May.”
Joko Widodo, the incumbent, declared victory in the April presidential poll, although the result is being challenged by losing candidate Prabowo Subianto amid claims of electoral fraud.
Anglo-Eastern also noted that the volume of fresh fruit bunches brought in from external growers fell by 12% to 340,660 tonnes, again reflecting a broader trend.
“External crop purchases were lower consistent with lower crop production by other planters in the first half of 2019,” the group said.
However, the data contrast with reports of Indonesia production gaining overall in early 2019, with investors pegging output at 15.8m tonnes in the January-to-April period, according to a Reuters poll, a figure which would represent a 12.2% gain year on year.
Some other plantation groups have reported a stronger start to 2019, with IndoAgri – which has operations in Riau – reporting a 7% gain to 745,000 tonnes in its own fresh fruit bunch output in the first three months of 2019, although seeing bought-in volumes up just 2% at 186,000 tonnes.
Post-El Nino revival
MP Evans, which has plantations in Kalimantan as well as around Sumatra, reported a 5% gain to 238,600 tonnes in its own fresh fruit bunch production in the January to May period, although boosted by replanting efforts.
The group said that in Bangka, off the north central Sumatra coast, “the extraordinary growth in crops over the last two years, as the region recovered from the 2015-16 El Niño weather pattern, was not expected to persist, and crop here fell by 15% in the first five months compared with last year.
It added that “there was a similar fall in Kota Bangun”, in east Kalimantan, “where the 2018 crop peaked in the first part of that year but is not expected to peak until later in 2019”.
Anglo-Eastern Plantations was downbeat on palm oil price expectations, despite the production downturn reported, and a 4% fall already so far this year, to $496 a tonne, in Rotterdam values of the vegetable oil.
“The group expects the CPO [crude palm oil] price to remain soft due to likely higher output and inventories across the market,” the group said.
Although noting that “palm oil prices are at a large discount to soybean oil”, the rival vegetable oil, the company said that the gap “remains volatile”.
In Kuala Lumpur, palm oil futures stood down 1.2% at 1,997 ringgit a tonne in late deals.