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Cocoa prices - can they maintain their recovery in 2013?

Cocoa prices rose in 2012 for the first time in three years, by 6% in nNew York and 4% in London.

The revival defied widespread expectations at the start of the year that political stability in top producer Ivory Coast, and the weight to consumption from soft world economic growth, might keep prices in decline.

In fact, prices gained support from weather and disease setbacks in West Africa which depressed estimates for production in 2012-13, leading to expectations of output falling behind consumption.

But how big will the deficit be? Will it be enough to support further price gains? Leading banks give their forecasts.

Barclays

"There were concerns surrounding the sweeping reform of Ivory Coast's cocoa sector over issues including storage facilities and quality control of beans.

Barclays cocoa price forecasts

Q1 2013: $2,650 a tonne

Q2 2013: $2,670 a tonne

Q3 2013: $2,700 a tonne

Q4 2013: $2,710 a tonne

2013 average: $2,683 a tonne

Forecast for quarter-average price, New York front futures contract

"However, the reforms have been more successful than expected and in the long term should lead to less volatile cocoa prices, encouraging farmers to increase investment in the sector by guaranteeing a stable income.

"We forecast the global cocoa market to be in a 108,000 deficit in the 2012-13 season.

"Despite risks of supply disruption caused by the new reforms in the Ivory Coast continuing to ease, we expect less-than-favourable weather causing production setbacks in key producers, coupled with strong grindings data in key producers such as Cameroon and Malaysia, widening the deficit." 

Commerzbank

"In the 2012-13 season, which began in October, for the first time in three years, a deficit looks likely on the global cocoa market.

"While official estimates of the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) are not expected until the next quarterly report in February, a potential level of 50,000 tonnes has been cited unofficially. Current market expectations are up to twice and three times that high.

Commerzbank arabica coffee price forecasts

Q1 2013: $2,500 a tonne

Q2 2013: $2,500 a tonne

Q3 2013: $2,550 a tonne

Q4 2013: $2,600 a tonne

2013 average: $2,550 a tonne

Forecast for quarter-average price, New York front futures contract

"Recent grinding figures from the industrial countries were disappointing. However, for the 2012-13 season the market expectations are for a rise in demand of 2.5-3%. "At the same time, the main harvests in Ivory Coast and Ghana have got off to a weaker start than they did last year. Following excessive rainfall, both countries are reporting problems with plant diseases.

 "That said, the chief economist of the ICCO has stated that overall in 2012-13 global production should be 'unchanged or a little lower' than last year, which is hardly a shock scenario amid the ample supply on the market to start with.

"Given the still high price level by past standards, we therefore do not see much upside potential for prices unless unexpected and significant production losses occur."

Rabobank

"Cocoa prices are expected to move sideways to slightly higher in 2013 amid tightening fundamentals.

Rabobank NY cocoa price forecasts

Q1 2013: $2,500 a tonne

Q2 2013: $2.450 a tonne

Q3 2013: $2,550 a tonne

Q4 2013: $2,550 a tonne

Forecast for quarter-average price, New York front futures contract

"Crop prospects for 2012-13 have improved as rainfall in West Africa helped ease the impact of dry conditions at the start of the season. However, we continue to forecast demand growth outpacing production increases.

"The new government cocoa programme in Ivory Coast to pre-sell the crop and guarantee a minimum farmer price remains a supply risk for the current season.

Rabobank London cocoa price forecasts

Q1 2013: £1,650 a tonne

Q2 2013: £1,625 a tonne

Q3 2013: £1,675 a tonne

Q4 2013: £1,675 a tonne

Forecast for quarter-average price, London front futures contract

"If middleman profitability is reduced, or if farmers are not realising the new set price of 735 West African CFA francs a kilogramme, deliveries are likely to be down from previous seasons, raising concerns about supply."The average prices for the 2011-12 season were the lowest since 2006-07 as a build-up of stocks and the pre-selling programme in Ivory Coast resulted in a sugar in the commercial net short position and reduced user offtake.

"With the risks to output and current low prices relative to recent history, and the broader agricultural markets, we assume the cocoa markets will be viewed as an investment opportunity in 2013." 

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