KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian palm oil futures gained for a second session on Tuesday after March inventories came in lower than expected, with traders speculating around changes to Indonesia’s export policy.

The benchmark palm oil contract for June delivery on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange gained 41 ringgit, or 1.07%, to 3,878 ringgit ($878.37) a tonne by the midday break.

An official at Indonesia’s economic coordinating ministry said on Monday the country plans to set its crude palm oil reference price at $932.69 per tonne for the April 16-30 period, up from $898.29 per tonne in the first half of the month.

The world’s largest palm oil producer in February had suspended some palm oil export permits to secure domestic supplies amid rising cooking oil prices ahead of Islamic festivals.

Traders said Indonesia is expected to update its so-called “domestic market obligation” (DMO) policy after the Eid festival in May.

In second-largest producer Malaysia, palm oil inventories at end-March slid 21.08% from the previous month to 1.67 million tonnes as exports surged, data by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board showed on Monday.

“We expect lower production in April 2023 due to fewer working days because of the Hari Raya (Eid) festival during the month,” UOB KayHian said in a note.

A strong recovery in production is unlikely as oil palm trees are showing sign of stress from too much of rainfall over the last three years, and there has been poor field upkeep, it said.

Palm oil drops for fourth session ahead of output data

Meanwhile, exports from Malaysia during April 1-10 fell between 16% and 35.6% from the same week in March, cargo surveyors said.

Demand for crude palm oil may be soft given the strong supply of other vegoils globally, while it is also losing pricing competitiveness, UOB KayHian added. Dalian’s most-active soyoil contract gained 0.5%, while its palm oil contract rose 3%.

Soyoil prices on the Chicago Board of Trade were up 0.3%. Palm oil is affected by price movements in related oils as they compete for a share in the global vegetable oils market.

Palm oil may keep bouncing to 3,910 ringgit per tonne, a break above which could open the way towards 3,980 ringgit, Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao said.

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