Oil prices ‘likely to remain static despite output cuts’

Production cuts led by OPEC and its allies will offer some support to oil prices, a survey of leading analysts shows, as the US and major economies in Europe introduce new pandemic restrictions. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 01 October 2020

Oil prices ‘likely to remain static despite output cuts’

  • Survey points to uneven recovery with demand under threat from rising coronavirus cases

BENGALURU: Oil prices will stay near current levels this year as rising novel coronavirus cases threaten to slow the pace of demand recovery and counter output curbs by top producers, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday.

The survey of 40 analysts and economists forecast benchmark Brent crude averaging $42.48 a barrel in 2020. That compares with an average of $42.54 this year and last month’s forecast of $42.75. Brent is projected to average $50.41 in 2021.

The 2020 US crude price outlook was at $38.70 per barrel versus $38.82 predicted in August. It has averaged $38.20 this year.

“As long as there is no working vaccine available, the main risk for oil prices is lower-than-expected demand,” Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro said.

Global demand was seen contracting by 8 million-9.8 million bpd (barrels per day) this year, slightly less bleak than the 8 million-10 million bpd consensus last month.

“Demand recovery should still continue in our view, although at a slower pace with the easiest demand gains behind us,” said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

The recovery “will remain uneven”, he added.

Brent prices are on track for their first monthly decline in six as rising coronavirus infections across many regions, including Europe and the US brought new restrictions, while global cases surpassed 33 million.

The International Energy Agency this month cut its 2020 demand forecast by 200,000 bpd to 91.7 million bpd.

But production cuts led by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies will offer some support to prices, analysts said, with the group curbing output by 7.7 million bpd.

“We suspect compliance with the OPEC+ deal will remain patchy but doubt that this will prevent the group from extending or even deepening its output cuts later this year,” Capital Economics analyst Caroline Bain said.


Taps and reservoirs run dry as Moroccan drought hits farmers

Updated 22 October 2020

Taps and reservoirs run dry as Moroccan drought hits farmers

  • The problems caused by increasingly erratic rainfall and the depletion of groundwater are growing every year in Morocco

RABAT: Two years of drought have drained reservoirs in southern Morocco, threatening crops the region relies on and leading to nightly cuts in tap water for an area that is home to a million people.

In a country that relies on farming for two jobs in five and 14 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), the problems caused by increasingly erratic rainfall and the depletion of groundwater are growing every year.

In the rich citrus plantations of El-Guerdan, stretching eastward from the southern city of Agadir, more than half of farmers rely on two dams in the mountains of Aoulouz, 126 km away, to irrigate their trees.

However, that water has been diverted to the tourist hub of Agadir, where mains water has been cut to residential areas every night since Oct. 3 to ensure taps in households did not run entirely dry.

“The priority should go to drinking water,” Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch said in parliament last week.

In El-Guerdan, Youssef Jebha’s crop of clementine oranges has been compromised by reduced water supply, he said, which affects both the quality of fruit and the size of the harvest.

“The available ground water is barely enough to keep the trees alive,” said Jebha, who is head of a regional farmers’ association.

“Saving Agadir should not be at the expense of El-Guerdan farmers,” he added, speaking by phone.

‘We hope for rain’

El-Guerdan is not alone in facing drought. Morocco’s harvest of cereals this year was less than half that of 2019, meaning hundreds of millions of dollars of extra import costs.

Despite lower production, Moroccan exports of fresh produce have risen this year by 8 percent. 

Critics of the government’s agricultural policy say such sales are tantamount to exporting water itself, given the crops use up so many resources.

A report by Morocco’s social and environmental council, an official advisory body, warned that four-fifths of the country’s water resources could vanish over the next 25 years.

It also warned of the risks to social peace due to water scarcity. In 2017, 23 people were arrested after protests over water shortages in the southeastern city of Zagora.

In January the government said it would spend $12 billion on boosting water supply over the next seven years by building new dams and desalination plants.

One $480 million plant, with a daily capacity of 400,000 cubic meters, is expected to start pumping in March, with the water divided between residential areas and farms.

Until then, “We hope for rain,” the agriculture minister said in parliament.

In El-Guerdan, the farmers are digging for water. A new well costs $20,000-30,000. However, “there is no guarantee water can be found due to the depletion of ground reserves,” said Ahmed Bounaama, another farmer.