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Trade Winds bimonthly update volume 50

Hello and welcome to our 50th edition of Trade Winds, before we continue, we would just like to thank each and everyone one of our valued customers for being a part of this journey so far and for your continued support throughout the year.

Are steel price increases a thing of the past? Steel prices surged during the post covid-19 recovery as supply struggled to keep up with demand. Prices for some products and markets hit all time highs in 2021 and detached from costs. However, the steel price cycle peak may be behind us.

Long products and rod saw huge increases in 2021, levels that were not even seen during the Global financial crisis back in 2008. Flat products had the biggest increases, making the increase on long products seem okay in comparison.

The surge in high prices experienced in 2021 are seen as a once in a decade phenomenon and this trend is not expected to be seen again within the foreseeable future, however with the global carbon steel prices seeming to be tapering down, South Africa is yet to follow suite.

There remain caution however in some circles since inflation in developed countries continues to rise which will further negatively impact global pricing particularly with regards to labour and logistics.  This is already evident in imports from the U.S.A.

Border updates, there were some reports of delays at Beitbridge last week however the border is flowing once again with no issues. No other issues have been reported amongst the other border posts.   The only issue is the time of year and  increased cargo movement resulting in longer waiting times for trucks.

It is really important to plan ahead!

N3 Truck driver protesters arrested, A week ago, truck drivers blocked off Van Reenen’s Pass, a busy North-South corridor between Durban port and Southern Africa. The protest started in the early hours of Friday morning and lasted till the evening, causing huge delays.

Twelve truck drivers were expected to appear in the Ladysmith Magistrate’s Court after they were arrested last week Friday for using their rigs to obstruct traffic.

The blockade was in protest of the presence of foreign national drivers working in South Africa’s Road freight sector.

Wide condemnation has since been expressed over the impact of Friday’s blockade, with Durban Chamber of Commerce CEO Phalesa Phili saying losses of about R800 million a day are lost when the country’s most important supply artery is affected in this manner.

Economists have expressed how this protest was bad for South Africa’s image as a key partner for intra-African trade, especially in light of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

New covid variant poses threat to eased freight rates, The impact of vaccination rates will play a significant role in projected global economic growth in 2022, with predictions that it will slow to 4.3% from 5.7% this year on the back of a downward trend in the post-pandemic rebound.

Freight shipping rates have already pulled back somewhat from their September high, but that said, the new Omicron variant poses a risk in this regard. If it leads to widespread border closures and tougher domestic restrictions, this could spur renewed demand for goods over services.

Stricter lockdowns could also see a repeat of port disruptions, with the attendant impact on cargo flows that has been evident throughout the pandemic.

Ocean freight reliability on the rise, with schedule reliability edging up slightly but still well below acceptable norms, some analysts have said that shippers’ price is sometimes secondary to the predictability of getting product to market.

It is also noted that the new strain has caused a stir with some countries now advising that any vessels arriving at their respective ports are to anticipate a quarantine window period, thus causing further impact on vessel schedules globally.

Further on, South African ports are currently experiencing delays which has been caused by severe weather, terminal congestion and berthing delays ranges from 3-5 days, with a further delay of 5 days expected in Cape Town and an additional 2-day delay in Durban. 

Major impact remains on import delivery, clients are now faced with huge demurrage charges as transport booking slots are still impacted by the terminal congestions.

Africa, the leaders in air cargo growth,  there is some bad news with airfreight due to cancelled PAX flights, the capacity remains constrained in and out of South Africa as countries tighten travel rules over the Omicron variant, belly cargo capacity may fall again in the coming weeks. 

Iron ore price rockets, Iron ore price surged on Tuesday after customs data showed China’s iron ore imports rose 14.6% in November from a month earlier to hit their highest since July 2020.

The world’s biggest consumer of iron ore brought in 104.96 million tonnes last month, up from October’s imports of 91.61 million and were also up 6.9% from November 2020.

Bureau Veritas slowly recovering from Cyberattack, The French classification company’s internet services remain deactivated after it detected an attempted cyber-security breach two weeks back, forcing BV to take its data and servers offline.

As of last week, more than 80% of operations were running at a normal level and some regions still have IT systems running at a reduced rate.

The company expects to recover most delayed activities in a short period of time and are evaluating any potential impact.

Currently the company is issuing inspections and certificates manually via email, there is a backlog as BV has lost three weeks of work however slowly services are returning.

The festive season is upon us!

We would like to thank our valued customers for all your support throughout this challenging year.  We hope we have served you well and whatever 2022 brings, we will continue to strive for service excellence, reliability and competitively priced product for mutual success and stronger partnerships.

Thank you!!

We wish you and your families a happy and safe festive period!

“You are the artist of your own life, don’t hand the paintbrush to anyone else”

Please note that Trade Winds will be taking a break until later in January.

Trade Winds bimonthly update volume 44

NUMSA strike to go ahead, At a CCMA facilitated Dispute between NUMSA and other unions earlier this week, NUMSA exercised its right to call for the issuing of a certificate of non-resolution.

With NUMSA having declared it’s dispute against all the employer organisations on the 29 July, and SEIFSA and the Associations having countered with its dispute against NUMSA on 2 August, NUMSA is within its right to call for the certificate.

We will monitor the situation and circulate any information received but the feeling is that we must prepare for the worst-case scenario.

Some striking has been noted at various steel merchants around Johannesburg which in turn will lead to some disruptions in steel supply.

Border updates, Beitbridge is once again the centre of attention as delays continue, this time with various contributing factors. SARS’s systems have gone down.

Trade flows through the routinely congested transit have been a nightmare of late, with processing delays on the Zimbabwean side of the crossing slowing traffic to a trickle.

Now, with SARS also experiencing issues, the queue south of the border is expected to worsen and transporters are advised to make the necessary preparations for a long wait.

The question also remains as to why trucks working the north-south line through the Southern African Development Community should be checked and charged by Zimbabwean authorities as often as they are at the two primary transits on this route – Beitbridge down south and Chirundu in the north.

At the Limpopo River crossing, alleged over-inspection is resulting in a queue stretching for kilometres south of the border, although processing is affected because of physical constraints caused by construction work, it still doesn’t explain why the Vehicle Inspection Department is inspecting cargo already weighed immediately south of the border.

Transport carrying SA’s GDP, South Africa’s transport sector grew 6.9% in the year’s second quarter, becoming the biggest sector to add to the 1.2% economic expansion announced earlier this month by Statistics South Africa.

The mining sector, sustained by a growing demand for raw minerals by global manufacturers, grew 4%.

The South African economy recorded its fourth consecutive quarter of growth, expanding by 1.2% in the second quarter of 2021.

The economic impact of the wave of severe economic disruption, protest action and violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, which took place in July, will only reflect in the third quarter GDP results, due for release in December.

Solar Power to reduce reliance on Eskom, The generation of solar power by top-performing gold mining company Pan African Resources is expected to lower reliance on power utility Eskom by up to 30%.

Pan African’s focus is to function off the national electricity grid during daytime hours at the moment as power storage options appeared to be very expensive at the moment.

The group’s focus now is solar and making sure it works. Ten megawatts will be the first plant and by early next year it would have proven itself.

Pan African produced 12.4% more gold over the last 12 months and reported a 36% increase in operating profit to $128 million.

Container rates continue to soar, container rates have more than quadrupled since the beginning of this year as shippers across the globe drive prices to levels well beyond the previous peak recorded 16 years ago.

The peak from 2005 is a whopping 128% lower than the level to which the current rates have increased.

To make matters worse for freight forwarders battling to keep up, the 128% increase is expected to curve upwards into 2022.

There is some hope as some freight liners such as CMA CGM have announced that freight rates will be paused till early next year as well as German shipping major Hapag-Lloyd confirmed that it had put a hold on freight rate increases on certain routes and would continue to do so for the time being.

Port congestion and severe capacity shortfalls have put shipping lines in the driver’s seat as rates skyrocketed. However, with lines under increasing pressure from shippers and regulators, perhaps this is the start of a cooling of rate rises.

Copper and Iron Ore prices drop, Iron ore price fell on Thursday after China reported a drop in the country’s steel production in August. The price of the commodity dropped by 7%.

China’s production was in excess of 83 million tonnes of crude steel in August, a 13% drop from the same period a year ago which is the lowest recorded level since March 2020. China’s efforts to cut emissions is the leading cause in the drop.

The price of copper is another commodity that felt a price drop as China has decided to release copper, aluminium and zinc from its state reserves, in an effort to overcome the gap between supply and demand.

China, being the world’s number one metal’s consumer had released 420,000 tonnes of the metals so far this year through batches where the public could bid on prices that sat slightly lower than the market value.

Copper was trading around $9,438 per tonne on Thursday.

The market now awaits the expected tapering of stimulus in next week’s US Federal Reserve meeting.

Zambian government to restore sanity, Zambia’s newly appointed mines minister, Paul Kabuswe, said on Tuesday that government will ensure that there is stability and predictability in the mining sector as well as calming any fears of mining royalties being increased.

Zambia, being Africa’s second-largest copper producer, which defaulted on its sovereign debt last year, has benefited from an increase in copper prices to record highs.

Zambia’s policy on Mopani Copper Mines KCM, two critical operations will be overseen by new President Mr. Hichilema. Zambia took on $1.5 billion in debt to buy Mopani from Glencore in January this year and they are still seeking a new investor for it. The previous administration was looking for an investor to fund the mine’s expansion, which they are hoping would boost output from 34,000 tonnes of copper a year to 150,000 tonnes.

President Hichilema’s market-friendly stance will hopefully attract new investment into Zambia’s mining sector which in turn will help boost the country’s copper production at a favourable time whilst copper nears record-highs.

Zimbabwe seeking investors, Zimbabwe will seek to raise $200 million in a debut domestic U.S. dollar bond sale on its stock exchange in Victoria Falls that trades exclusively in foreign currency, according to Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that the bond sale would be for $100 million. In August, Ncube said a debt offering could help meet the cost of a $3.5 billion compensation bill the country is facing after it reached an agreement with White farmers evicted from their land two decades ago.

The so-called “Zimbabwe Global Investor Roadshow” has seen Ncube travel to South Africa and Dubai to court foreign investment. In New York, Ncube will also meet with officials from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, ahead of an IMF visit to Zimbabwe that’s expected next month.

Zim looking for additional power to ease 12-hour cuts, Zimbabwe is looking to Mozambique and Zambia to supply it with more electricity as it tries to fill a power shortfall that’s led to 12 hour power cuts.

Government is currently in discussion with Mozambique trying to secure an additional 180 megawatts from their newly commissioned power plants as well as attaining an extra 100 megawatts from Zambia.

The current electricity cuts are due to rehabilitation work at the Kariba South hydropower plant, constraints at its coal-fired Hwange plant as well as limited power imports, according to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority.

On a lighter note; a Zimbabwean artist has brought new life to obsolete Mugabe-era banknotes and turned them into striking paintings.  A 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar has finally found value thanks to the artistic talent of Prudence Chimutuwah.  Prudence explained that she wants people to heal from the damage caused during the days of hyper-inflation and see the bank notes in a new joyful light!  Her figures are mainly painted in blue, which she described as “a symbol of strength and dominance”.

Happy weekend ahead!

Upcoming Public Holidays:
24th September 2021 – Heritage Day (RSA)

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”