Saudi Arabia to keep crude oil exports under 7 million barrels a day in April to raise prices

Saudi oil minister Khalid Al-Falih wants oil exporters inside and outside OPEC to continue cooperating on production after their agreement expires at the end of this year. (Reuters)
Updated 14 March 2018

Saudi Arabia to keep crude oil exports under 7 million barrels a day in April to raise prices

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia plans to keep its crude oil production in April below 10 million barrels per day (bpd), and maintain exports under 7 million bpd, the energy ministry said on Wednesday, as the top OPEC producer wants to end a global supply glut and boost prices.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has been pumping below its OPEC target since January and reducing its crude shipments, particularly to the US, as it turns its focus on cutting exports in an attempt to drain global oil stocks.
“Despite nominations coming in at 100,000 barrels a day, higher than the previous month, allocations were maintained on par with their March levels,” the ministry said in a statement.
A spokesman for the energy ministry said that Saudi Arabia, along with the OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers participating in a global supply cut agreement, “remain committed to pursuing the common objective of restoring inventories back to their normal levels.”
OPEC and non-OPEC producers, led by Russia, have agreed to maintain oil output cuts until the end of 2018. The aim is to reduce global inventories and support prices.
OPEC has made the five-year average its main target and managed to reduce the glut to around 74 million barrels above that benchmark, from above 300 million when the cuts began in 2017.
OPEC has delivered more than 100 percent of the output cuts that members pledged under the deal, according to figures from OPEC and other analysts, helped in part by an involuntary drop in Venezuela, where output is falling amid an economic crisis.
“We are happy with the excellent overall conformity levels and look forward to all participating countries maintaining or exceeding full conformity with their commitments as agreed,” the Saudi energy ministry spokesman said.
But the relentless rise in US production has this year put pressure on oil prices. US oil is also increasingly being exported, including to the world’s biggest and fastest growing markets in Asia, eating away at OPEC and Russian market share.
Brent crude futures were trading at around $64.93 per barrel on Wednesday, down from above $70 in January.
US crude oil production, pushed up largely by shale oil drilling, has risen by almost a quarter since mid-2016 and output soared past 10 million bpd in late 2017, overtaking production by Saudi Arabia.
OPEC meets next in June to decide its output policy. Global oil producers agreed they should continue cooperating after their agreement expires at the end of this year, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid Al-Falih said in January.


A homegrown UAE brand bets on date’s heritage appeal

Updated 29 February 2020

A homegrown UAE brand bets on date’s heritage appeal

  • Dates are locally sourced by The Date Room from around 20 farms in the Al Ain oasis area of Abu Dhabi
  • UAE farms grow about 475,000 tons of dates a year, a significant percentage of which is exported

DUBAI: When you can answer the classic business question about a unique selling proposition (USP) in six different ways, you likely have a successful product on your hands.

Thankfully, when you are dealing with dates, unusual product features are not a problem.

There are more than 3,000 date varieties around the world, but Emirati brand The Date Room is approaching the sticky business of breaking into an established market with just half a dozen local cultivars.

From the buttery, caramel notes of the golden Kholas date to the lower-carbohydrate Razaiz type, their flavors offer a change from the more commonly available Medjool and Deglet Noor varieties.

Being locally sourced from about 20 farms in the Al-Ain oasis area of Abu Dhabi, they are also introducing UAE residents to the nation’s heritage.

“Emirati dates are unique because they’re generally much richer in taste and texture than others on the market — although they can be smaller in size,” said Tony N. Al-Saiegh, executive director of The Date Room.

The Date Room launched with two luxury boutiques in the UAE last November after founder Ahmed Mohamed bin Salem spotted a gap for local fruit in a market dominated by produce from Saudi farms.

While official market share by origin data is not available, Saudi dates may control close to 90 percent of the UAE’s retail market.

Yet, with an annual production of 755,000 tons, Saudi Arabia trails Egypt, Iran and Algeria, all of which produce in excess of a million tons each year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

By contrast, UAE farms grow about 475,000 tons, a significant percentage of which is exported.

Dates are among the world’s oldest cultivated crops. The palm is native to the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, with origins that go back more than 5,000 years to what is modern-day Iraq.

The appeal of dates has grown considerably in recent years. Their high fiber and mineral profile have led to their classification as a superfood, they have been used for their high natural sugar content in healthy natural alternatives to processed candy bars.

“The Date Room’s main initial motive was the fact that our own farms produce a superior quality of date in every way,” Al-Saiegh said.

“Our families have been enjoying these dates with every meal and occasion for generations, so why not introduce it to the market in a way that makes them available to everyone but also promotes the unique culture of the UAE?”

The company’s annual production runs to about 160 tons.

For now, distribution is restricted to the UAE, but Al-Saiegh says his team is in talks with distributors in India and Indonesia.

With farmers everywhere agonizing over the impact of climate change, what are the challenges facing date farmers, accustomed as their crops are to heat and aridity?

Scientists expect 2019 to be the second-hottest year on record after 2016, and they forecast that by 2070, today’s major producers will suffer from a markedly unsuitable climate.

Despite palm trees being able to tolerate the heat for hundreds of years, Al-Saiegh says his farms are already feeling the impact.

“As the weather gets hotter and the summers get longer, it’s drying out farms and (arable) land. This means more water is required because a lack of water affects the size and texture of the fruit,” he explains.

While the full impact of those changes is some years away, the Abu Dhabi government has focused on conserving the UNESCO World Heritage oasis where the UAE’s dates are grown.

On the other hand, given the way technology has transformed the local agricultural sector with solutions such as vertical, indoor and soilless farms, Al-Saiegh may soon be able to add another distinguishing feature to The Date Room’s USP.

• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.