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Short and sweet this month :
What a difference a month makes! The crash of the world price has been spectacular but it seems to be stabilising at about 17 ¢/lb even if that doesn't show on the chart yet :
It would seem that it took little to burst the bubble, as you will see below.
One has to ask why India seems totally incapable of estimating its sugar crop. The latest estimate of the 2009/10 crop, released in March, now has the crop at close to 17 million tons compared to 14 or 15 million not that long back : an increase of at least 13%. Not that the increase means that much : the country has an annual demand of about 23 million, climbing at over 1 million tons each year.
CZARNIKOW REDUCES DEFICIT FORECAST
Because of the improved position in India, Czarnikow has reduced its deficit forecast for the current year by just over 2 million tons to ‘only’ 12.6 million. The company has pointed out, however, that other markets such as China, Thailand and Mexico are all reporting lower crops so the picture may still change.
After failing to buy any sugar earlier in the year, Egypt jumped into the falling market last month and bought 90 000 tons at about $530/t : ~24 ¢/lb. The country has said that it needs to buy 1 million tons this year.
The Chinese company ‘Bright Food’ has reiterated its intention of buying the CSR sugar division and has apparently stated that the price was not a problem, it would pay more than previously offered if necessary. CSR, on the other hand, seems to have been very quiet on the subject.
March was an interesting month for the shareholders of Tully, in Queensland’s far north region. First of all Maryborough changed its offer for the company from a paper deal to one with a cash component : it is now Aus$ 6.75 plus 10 Maryborough shares.
Meanwhile, Tully told its shareholders that it would put a proposal before them in April to float on the stock exchange so that it would then have the resources to buy Bundaberg's factories at South Johnstone, Tableland and Babinda. That would certainly be a change for the shareholders! … and might be news for those of Bundaberg.
NSW COOP IN TROUBLE
The NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative has been working on export cogeneration for a long time but it is now talking of placing the plants into receivership because of a slump in the price of credits for renewable energy.
Further north however, it looks as if a similar project at Mackay will go ahead with the PPA being signed more or less at the same time as NSW Coop’s announcement.
NEW REFINERY FOR ALGERIA
The French sugar beet cooperative Cristal Union has announced plans for a 1000 t/d RSO refinery in Algeria in a joint venture with local food company LaBelle. The refinery, reported to have a €70 million [$100 million] capital budget, will be designed for easy expansion to 2000 t/d. What was not announced was the proposed location although there has long been talk of a second refinery in Oran in the west to balance the Cevital refinery at Bejaia in the east.
It looks as if the proposed privatisation of the remaining Kenyan factories [Nzoia, Sony, Chemelil, Miwani and Muhoroni] along the lines of the Mumias model might be running into trouble. The government is required by the terms of its COMESA sugar concession to start privatisation and it had set a timetable which began in February and ended in June. This was also deemed the latest possible because by 2012 the country will be fully exposed to imports from other COMESA countries, at which point at least some of the companies would be even less viable than now.
By the end of March, nothing had happened : apparently because some of the debts due to be wiped off by the government as part of the deal were, shall we say, less than transparent.
It looks as if the Kwale sugar project in the far south east of Kenya [almost on the border with Tanzania] at the old Ramisi sugar site might actually be going ahead. The company is claiming that it is expanding its seed cane nursery to 1000 ha for planting from August this year with the RFQ for ‘construction’ [perhaps EPC?] being issued this month. There is talk of a nucleus estate [60 to 70% of the total requirement] with drip irrigation. The company says that the factory is expected to be a 3000 tcd unit with a small [30 000 ℓ/d] distillery and 18 MW power station. There is no mention of auxiliary fuel but with those figures there must be.
The Zimbabwean government is nothing if not ambitious. The department of Agriculture has announced a 50 000 ha project for Chisumbanje [again!] which will reportedly cost $600 million. This version will be focused on ethanol and should be able to produce ‘80% of the country’s demand’ – whatever that means.
We always thought that one of the issues was the need to build the dam before the agriculture could start?
TRANSGENIC BEET APPROVED
The judge embroiled in the US debate on whether transgenic beets should be allowed found in favour of their use last month. Apparently his judgement was based on the parties opposed to using such seed waited too long to make their application so the economic impact of finding against at this stage would be too great.
The government in Venezuela has announced a 30% price rise for sugar, a rise considered by the millers to be inadequate to solve their problems and it has taken over two more factories, this time for allegedly hoarding sugar. The mills are both owned by the same person – a Guatemalan business man – and are both in Portuguesa province.
A research group at London’s Imperial College is claiming that it has found an inexpensive way to convert lignocelluloses in to a biodegradable plastic. The claim is for 80% yield in a low energy and low water use process but no details have been released, presumable because of potential patents to be filed.