UPDATE 1-Malaysia end-Dec palm oil stocks drop 11%, hit 27-month low

Mei Mei Chu

* Stockpiles falls lower-than-expected to 27-month low Production drops to lowest since June 2018

* Exports eases 0.7%, higher-than-expected

(Adds details, quotes from trader and analysts) KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Malaysia's palm oil stockpiles in December dropped to a 27-month low of 2.01 million tonnes <MYPOMS-TPO>, industry regulator Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) said on Friday. Inventories in December fell 11% to their lowest since Sept. 2017, while a Reuters survey had forecast that stockpiles would fall 8.5% to 2.06 million tonnes. December production in Malaysia, the world's second-largest palm producer, fell 13% to 1.33 million tonnes on-month, its lowest since June 2018, roughly in line with the Reuters survey. Malaysia's palm exports eased 0.7% to 1.4 million tonnes, versus expectations of a 5.9% drop. "Exports were higher than expected after shipments to Turkey, Egypt and Mozambique offset the fall in demand from three top markets China, India and the EU," palm market analyst Sathia Varqa said. Falling stockpiles and tighter production due to dry weather and lower fertiliser usage by top producers Indonesia and Malaysia in early 2019 have boosted palm prices by over 45% since Oct 2019 to hover above 3,050 ringgit, its highest in three years. The benchmark palm oil contract for March delivery on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange edged down 0.7% to 3,099 ringgit ($760.49) at the end of the morning session.

"MPOB data is seen as bullish, as it confirmed market's expectations of weaker production against stronger exports even before the implementation of biodiesel plans by Malaysia," Sathia said. Domestic consumption is expected to increase, as Malaysia has started to roll out its B20 palm-based biodiesel programme in January with an expectation to absorb an additional 500,000 tonnes of crude palm oil. Palm oil imports in the world's second-largest producer were up 65% at 123,029 tonnes, versus a Reuters forecast of 75,000 tonnes. "Imports was much higher given the tightness in the market," Marcello Cultrera, institutional sales manager at Phillip Futures in Kuala Lumpur. Here is a breakdown of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board figures and Reuters estimates for December (volumes in tonnes):

Dec 2019 Dec 2019 poll Nov 2019* Dec 2018Output 1,333,904 1,338,107 1,538,053 1,808,038Stocks 2,007,124 2,064,000 2,255,035 3,216,476Exports 1,396,157 1,319,000 1,405,638 1,383,307Imports 123,029 75,000 74,684 108,621* indicates revised figures

($1 = 4.0750 ringgit)

(Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)