By Julie Wernau
Favorable weather, strong farm gate prices in Ghana and sluggish demand growth are expected to add up to more cocoa supply than demand again this year, commodities broker JSG Commodities told attendees at an industry conference after the close of the market on Thursday.
"It's likely going to take quite some time for the market to chew through the surplus we currently see," Eric Bergman, cocoa broker at JSG Commodities in South Norwalk, Conn., said at the event.
The firm said it anticipates cocoa supply in the 2017/2018 crop year to outstrip demand by 88,450 tons following a surplus of 347,600 tons the year before and expects prices to trade within a range until new fundamental developments occur. The firm places total production for the year at 4.655 million tons, with cocoa bean processing at 4.52 million tons.
That brings the stocks-to-grindings ratio up to 40.90% from 40.22%.
The firm said cocoa arrivals in Ivory Coast, the world's largest grower, are on pace with last year despite a 30%-plus decrease in the price farmers receive for cocoa.
Meanwhile, Ghana the second largest producer, announced a $750 million loan to replace half the cocoa trees in Ghana, and the farm price is still at a record despite a large drop in market prices for cocoa, Mr. Bergman said.
While demand has picked up due to cheaper prices for cocoa and high processing margins, the big hope for cocoa demand to improve comes from renewed growth in emerging markets, but Mr. Bergman said it could be some time before cocoa--not a staple good--makes its way to daily shopping lists in developing countries.
In a recent earnings call, Barry Callebaut said chocolate demand isn't growing in the Asian and European regions. And health trends in North America and Europe are a risk for cocoa demand growth. Hershey recently released a new candy bar for the first time since 1995. The bar contains no cocoa. Nestle has announced that its growth is flat year-over-year in its chocolate category, and CVS recently moved its candy offerings away from the front of its stores where impulse buys for chocolate typically occur, Mr. Bergman said.
Kyle Tapley at weather forecaster Radiant Solutions said a La Nina pattern in the coming year should be beneficial to cocoa development as it typically brings more rain to West Africa, the largest growing region.
March cocoa lost 1.4% to end at $1,880 a ton, raw sugar ended down 1% at 14.31 cents a pound, and arabica coffee for March was off 2.5% at $1.229 a pound.
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