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OPEC March oil output sinks to 11-month low – Reuters survey

Comments (0) Actualites, Middle East, Oil

LONDON (Reuters) – OPEC oil output fell in March to an 11-month low due to declining Angolan exports, Libyan outages and a further slide in Venezuelan output, a Reuters survey found, sending compliance with a supply-cutting deal to another record.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries pumped 32.19 million barrels per day last month, the survey found, down 90,000 bpd from February. The March total is the lowest since April 2017, according to Reuters surveys.

OPEC is reducing output by about 1.2 million bpd as part of a deal with Russia and other non-OPEC producers to get rid of excess supply. The pact started in January 2017 and runs until the end of 2018.

Adherence by producers in the deal rose to 159 percent of agreed cuts from 154 percent in February, the survey found. There was no sign that other producers had boosted output to cash in on higher prices or to compensate for the Venezuelan decline.

Oil has topped $71 a barrel this year for the first time since 2014, and was trading above $67 on Wednesday. Still, OPEC says supply restraints should be maintained to ensure the end of a glut that had built up since 2014.

In March, the biggest decrease in supply came from Angola, which exported 48 cargoes, two fewer than in the same month of 2017. Natural declines at some fields are weighing on output.

Production in Libya, which remains unstable due to unrest, slipped because of stoppages at two fields, El Feel and El Sharara, setting back 2018’s partial recovery in output.

And production fell further in Venezuela, where the oil industry is starved of funds because of an economic crisis. Output dropped to 1.56 million bpd in March, the survey found, a new long-term low.

Output in OPEC’s largest producer, Saudi Arabia, dropped by 40,000 bpd from February’s revised level, even further below the kingdom’s target.

OPEC’s No. 2 producer, Iraq, pumped more. Exports from the south, the outlet for most of the country’s crude, rose despite maintenance at a loading terminal. Exports declined from the north but domestic crude use increased.

Among others with higher output, the biggest rise came from the United Arab Emirates, where production had dropped in February due to maintenance. Even so, the UAE is still pumping below its OPEC target and showing higher compliance than in 2017.

Output climbed in Qatar, after a dip in February that sources attributed to maintenance. Nigeria also pumped at a higher level, extending a run of more stable supply from Africa’s top exporter.

Nigeria and Libya were originally exempt from cutting supply because their output had been curbed by conflict and unrest. For 2018, both told OPEC that output would not exceed 2017 levels.

OPEC has an implied production target for 2018 of 32.73 million bpd, based on cutbacks detailed in late 2016 and taking into account changes of membership since, plus Nigeria and Libya’s expectations of 2018 output.

According to the survey, OPEC pumped about 540,000 bpd below this implied target in March, not least because of the involuntary decline in Venezuela.

The Reuters survey is based on shipping data provided by external sources, Thomson Reuters flows data and information provided by sources at oil companies, OPEC and consulting firms.

 

(By Alex Lawler; Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal in Dubai; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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Tourism in Morocco down amid regional unrest

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Middle East

Casablanca Morocco tourism

While the North African nation is considered safe, instability in neighboring countries prompts decline in foreign visitors.

As regional unrest results in declines in tourist visits by Europeans, Morocco is attempting to attract more visitors from Russia, China and West Africa.

A visit by Moroccan King Mohammad VI to Moscow in March underscored the North African nation’s strategy of attracting tourists from outside European nations that have traditionally been major sources of visitors.

The Ministry of Tourism of Morocco is also in talks with airlines to open direct flights to that country from Russia and China.

Safety fears groundless

Tourism minister Lahcen Haddad said Morocco has lost tourists because of unwarranted fears about safety prompted by continuing unrest in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt as well as recent attacks by terrorists in Turkey.

“Morocco remains a very safe and secure country,” Haddad said. “But we need to do more to get that message across.”

A 2015 report by the Overseas Security Council also declared all areas of Morocco safe for tourists, citing mostly minor thefts as the main risk.

Tourist visits down 1 percent

The country’s tourism industry got a wakeup call in 2015, when total tourism revenues and tourist visits declined after a decade of growth.

According to the Treasury and External Finance agency, tourist revenue to hotels and restaurants declined by 1.3 percent during the first three quarters of 2015, following an increase of 3.3 percent a year earlier.

The agency said tourist arrivals at Moroccan border posts also declined by 1 percent in 2015 while these arrivals had increased by 2.4 percent to more than 10 million in 2014.

French visits drop by 7 percent

The largest decline has been among the French, who constitute Morocco’s largest source of tourism. French tourism to Morocco declined by 7 percent in 2015. The nation also saw declines in visitors from Spain, Italy and Belgium, while arrivals from the United Kingdom and the United States increased, according to the tourism ministry.

Tourism revenue in 2015 totaled about $6 billion, still a significant share of Morocco’s $100 billion economy. The sector employs about 400,000 people.

Like other countries in the region, Morocco experienced significant growth in its tourism industry between 2001 and 2011, according to Eurostat. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia in 2010 and spread to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain the following year, prompting varying degrees of unrest and instability that persists in some countries today.

Other countries see steep declines

Morocco has not fared as badly as some other countries in the region.

Egypt more than tripled the number of visitors to 14.7 million in 2010, only to see tourism drop by one third. Jordan, while stable, saw tourism fall by 17 percent in 2010 and 2011.

Turkey, hit by terrorist attacks, also experienced steep declines in tourism, which accounts for 15 percent of its gross domestic product.

As Europeans stay away, Morocco is pinning its hopes to expand the tourism sector on visitors from Russia, West Africa and China.

King Mohammad visits Moscow

King Mohammad visits Moscow

King visits Moscow

In March, a visit to Moscow by King Mohammad VI’s included talks about ways to encourage more Russians to visit Morocco as well as talks about providing direct flights to the North African country from St. Petersburg and Moscow.

In his first visit to Russia since 2002, the Moroccan king met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral cooperation in tourism, agriculture and energy. The two countries signed 12 agreements related to tourism.

The king also inaugurated an exhibition “Morocco-Russia: A shared ancient history,” which includes bronze objects from ancient Roman sites as well as Roman statues at Moscow’s Pushkin Museum.

Goal is 200,000 Russian visitors each year

Haddad, the Moroccan tourism minister, said the nation hopes to increase the number of Russian tourists five-fold, from 40,000 annually in 2015 to 200,000 by 2019.

“Russia offers us a big opportunity,” he said.

Haddad said talks are under way with Royal Air Maroc and Russia’s Aeroflot about opening new routes between Marrakesh and Agadir in Morocco and Moscow and St. Petersburg.

A 2014 plan to add direct flights between Morocco and China has not been implemented.

Morocco is hub for West African travelers

Meanwhile, Haddad said Morocco is a top hub for West Africans traveling to Europe or other countries in Africa.

Haddad said Morocco could attract as many as 160,000 visitors from West Africa if it can entice transit travelers to stay a few nights in Casablanca and visit attractions such as the medina and Hassan II mosque.

Morocco’s tourism industry is expected to get a boost later this year with more than 30,000 attendees at COP22, the 2015 global climate conference November 7 – 18 in Marrakesh.

Morocco has also started talks with European carriers about offering low-cost flights to Moroccan tourist destinations such as Ouarzazate and Errachidia, Haddad said.

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Russia and Morocco Strengthen Ties

Comments (0) Featured, Middle East, Politics

morocco russia

New strategic agreements between Morocco and Russia

Russia and Morocco are known for their mutual respect concerning diplomacy and economic issues since the late 18th century. The Sultan of Morocco, Mohammed III, and Russian Empress Catherine II exchanged letters in areas of mutual interest, including establishment of commercial ties, and allowing Russian boats to have access to Moroccan shores for fishing. Mohammed III then invited a Russian representative to come to Morocco for further talks.

The relationship between Russia and Morocco underwent an evolution in the 19th century, and Russia established a Consulate in Tangiers in 1897. The Russian diplomat Vasily Romanovich Bakherakht arrived in Morocco in May of 1898. Morocco became the first Arab country that Russia established diplomatic ties with, and remained so until the October Revolution.

In November of 1955, the Kingdom of Morocco became an independent state, and the Soviet Union recognized its independence in July of 1956. Diplomatic ties were re-established in September of 1961. Since that time, the connection between Russia and Morocco has been robust, in spite of many economic and political changes that both countries have experienced in the 20th and 21st centuries.

An increasingly strategic alliance between Morocco and Russia

In the past five to ten years, there have been significant indications leading to increasingly close ties and cooperation between Russia and the Kingdom of Morocco. Their international involvement with the global community has experienced uncertainty echoed in circumstances and events affecting both countries. Economic sanctions placed on Russia and the evolution of debate over the Moroccan Sahara are other factors explaining the increasingly strategic alliance between Morocco and Russia.

Morocco’s stronger inclinations towards relations with Russia have often been pointed out by government officials, either through direct meetings or official statements. In several speeches, King Mohamed VI has officially declared the intentions of Morocco to strengthen cooperation with Russia in trade, tourism, and investment. On July 30, 2014, the 15th anniversary of Mohamed VI’s coronation, the Monarch announced his country’s commitment to advancing stronger bonds with Russia. King Mohamed VI

On Tuesday, March 15th, 2016, King Mohamed VI met with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin and signed six binding agreements and several memorandums, framework agreements, and protocols that deepen ties between the two countries.

The agreements cover:

– Extradition between Morocco and Russia.

– Air services between the countries.

– Cooperation covering environmental protections and use of natural resources.

– Cooperation on sea fisheries.

– The promotion and reciprocal protection of investments.

– A mutual protection of classified information on military and military-technical matters.

– A Moroccan-Russian declaration on the fight against international terrorism.

The memorandums, framework agreements, and protocols cover an understanding on:

–  Cooperation in the field of energy.

–  Cooperation in geological research and exploration of the subsoil.

–  An understanding between the National Health Security Office of foodstuffs (ONSSA) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Maritime Fishing (Morocco) and the Federal Agency for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Federation Russia) plant health of plants and plant products.

– Joint action programs for 2016-2018 in the field of tourism.

– Cooperation between the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Central Religious Organization (Shura Council of Muftis of Russia).

– A framework partnership agreement with the National Foundation of Museums and the Museums of the Moscow Kremlin.

– And a protocol for the exchange of information on moving goods and vehicles between Morocco and Russia.

The two countries also stressed the need to strengthen global cooperation combating international terrorism and violent extremism.

The two country’s Declaration on their deeper strategic partnership also called for strengthening the central role of the United Nations in its fight against global terrorism, transnational organized crime, criminal corruption, and other challenges.

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Nigeria says producers to meet in Moscow, sees dramatic impact

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

ABUJA (Reuters) – Some members of OPEC plan to meet other oil producers in Russia around March 20 for new talks on an oil output freeze, Nigeria’s petroleum minister said on Thursday, forecasting the meeting would spark a dramatic reaction in crude prices.

Nigeria has been pushing for action by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries because the slump in oil revenue has undercut its public finances and currency, leaving the government struggling to pay civil servants.

“We’re beginning to see the price of crude inch up very slowly,” minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu told a conference in Abuja. “But if the meeting that we’re scheduling, it should happen in Russia, between the OPEC and non-OPEC producers, happens about March 20, we should see some dramatic price movement.”

“Both the Saudis and the Russians, everybody is coming back to the table,” Kachikwu said. “I think we’re very humbled today to accept that if we get to a price of $50, it will be celebrated. That’s a target that we have.”

The Russian Energy Ministry said it was ready for talks but the date and venue had yet to be agreed. “Currently, various options about the venue and date for the meeting, where measures on oil market stabilisation due to be discussed, are being worked out,” it said in a statement.

Benchmark Brent futures were around $37 per barrel by 1554 GMT on Thursday.

OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia, the world’s two largest oil exporters, agreed last month to freeze output at January levels to prop up prices if other nations agreed to join the first global oil pact in 15 years.

Yet the accord has so far failed to have a dramatic impact on crude prices, partly because OPEC’s third-largest producer Iran plans to steeply raise production after the lifting of international sanctions on the Islamic Republic in January.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday stepped up rhetoric on the issue, telling Qatar’s ruler crude prices had fallen to “totally unacceptable” levels.

Kachikwu also said Nigeria was pumping 2.2 million barrels per day, in line with previous comments, of which 46 percent was coming from onshore fields.

He also said Nigeria’s average oil production cost from state firm NNPC and international companies was between $13 and $15 a barrel for onshore fields and $30 a barrel for deep offshore operations.

Oil prices have lost two thirds of their value since mid 2014 due to a glut of supplies caused by booming output from the United States and OPEC. In January they fell below $30 per barrel, their lowest in more than a decade.

 

(By Camillus Eboh. Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Susan Fenton and Susan Thomas)

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