Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Guanchg ... Mar11

Cocoa prices rose to a 32-year high at US$3,706 (RM11,230) a tonne in early March 2011 due to the ongoing political crisis in Ivory Coast, which produces 60% of the world’s output.

Meanwhile, supply fears pushed the price of coffee to a high of US$2.74 (RM8.30) a pound in February 2011, more than double the low of US$1.27 a pound seen in March 2009. Concerns over poor harvests in coffee producing countries like Mexico, Colombia and Kenya have been exerting upward pressure on prices.

While the F&B companies are feeling the bite of high commodity prices, there is a liver lining for some, as Malaysia is a producer of cocoa, though not a major one.

Malaysia produced 18,152 tonnes of cocoa beans in 2009, according to the Malaysia Cocoa Board. Of this amount, 13,213 tonnes came from Peninsular Malaysia, 3,688 tonnes from Sabah and 1,251 tonnes from Sarawak. Production is estimated to have fallen to 15,654 tonnes in 2010.

Malaysia’s cocoa bean production is mostly undertaken by smallholders, rather than large plantation players, and these smallholders will benefit from higher prices.

The country’s cocoa production has declined greatly as low prices in the past prompted farmers to switch to more lucrative crops. In 1990, for instance, the country produced 247,000 tonnes -- a staggering 13.6 times more than 2009’s output.

Guan Chong Bhd, a cocoa-ingredient producer, is riding the rally in cocoa prices. It is sitting on a large inventory of cocoa beans that has appreciated in value due to rising prices. The company’s inventories totalled RM154.92 million as at end-2010

For FY2010 ended Dec 31, Guan Chong’s net profit soared seven-fold to RM100 million as revenue rose 83% to RM1.17 billion.

The company says its financials were also helped by foreign exchange gains due to the strengthening ringgit. The firm also booked gains from commodity futures contracts, and foreign exchange derivatives.
It is also worth watching companies like MBf Holdings Bhd, which operates coffee and cocoa plantations in Papua New Guinea. MBf Holdings’ website indicates that the company has a 1,100ha coffee plantation and 2,100ha of land for tea cultivation in Papua New Guinea. Details about its cocoa operations were however not specified. Agriculture operations in Papua New Guinea accounted for 11% of MBf’s revenue in the financial year ended Dec 31, 2010, its latest quarterly results showed.

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