Record vegetable oil prices fear even faster inflation

Record vegetable oil prices fear even faster inflation

As the recent crude oil rally also aids demand for the crops to make biodiesel, Paris rapeseed futures and North American canola notched new all-time highs on Friday. Their oils are also used for everything from frying French fries to mixing salad dressings. Rapeseed prices have nearly doubled in the past year.

All the more awful weather for the world’s oilseed growers is pushing rapeseed and canola costs to new records and adding to food-inflation stresses. Futures have been on a tear for some time, after last year’s harvests in Canada and Europe were tormented by scorching drought and planting cutbacks, cutting global rapeseed stockpiles to a four-year low. Presently, stresses are mounting over provisions of rival vegetable oils, with warm and dry climate harming South American soybean prospects and flooding hitting palm oil farms in Malaysia.

“The situation is really tight, and the buyers are still there,” said Arthur Portier, an analyst at Paris-based farm adviser Agritel.

Paris rapeseed futures surged as much as 5.9% on Friday, the biggest intraday gain since 2009, and North American canola gained as much as 1.5%.

The gains come as palm oil — used in about half of all supermarket goods — has rallied and near-record food prices squeeze household budgets. A United Nations index of food prices averaged 28% higher in 2021 than the prior year, led by a surge in vegetable oils.

Europe has become increasingly reliant on oilseed imports in recent years, after phasing out crop chemicals that rapeseed growers used to deter pests. That’s exacerbating local prices, as supplies shrink across key exporters, according to Michael Magdovitz, senior analyst at Rabobank in London.

The situation could improve later this year. France and Germany have both increased plantings, government data show. And Canadian farmers are also likely to plant more canola, as wheat prices retreat, said Charlie Sernatinger, global head of grain futures at ED&F Man Capital Markets Inc in Chicago.

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