Questions over the stamina of the El Nino weather pattern,
and a potential return to La Nina, have emerged in the cocoa sector too after unexpectedly
strong rains reached Ivory Coast, the top producing nation.
The El Nino pattern which has been long been forecast
typically brings a drier pattern to West Africa, lowering production potential.
El Nino seasons typically see a 2.4% drop in output,
equivalent to some 100,000 tonnes, thanks to the impact in the likes of Ivory
Coast, besides a dip in Ecuador too, according to International Cocoa
However, while clocking "growing fears for the return of a
supply deficit" in 2012-13, after two years of surplus, the organisation also
clocked the occurrence of strong rainfall in some African producing regions
sufficient to stoke concerns for plantation diseases.
Although the US Climate Prediction Center, supported by
model forecasts and continued warmth across the Pacific Ocean, is forecasting
the occurrence of most likely a weak El Niño… there have been increased threats
of black pod disease reported in some African cocoa producing regions following
some heavy rains," the ICCO said.
The El Nino, "which started in September 2012 and was
expected to persist through December-February 2012-13".
'La Nina signal has
The observation is the latest in a series questioning the
status of the weather, as regards the El Nino, with some other observers also
clocking conditions which appear more consistent with its counterpart, the La
Gail Martell, at Martell Crop Projections, said that while
many indicators in fact signalled neutral conditions, "a La Nina signal has
emerged in the US" in precipitation extremes.
"October-to-November rainfall has been virtually absent in
the southern third of the US, intensifying drought, while heavy rains have
pounded the Pacific Northwest in recent weeks.
Colder temperatures have developed in the Midwest.
"These developments suggest a La Niña influence may be in
'Deteriorating crop prospects'
In South America, meteorological service Metsul has said
that some of their long-term models are showing a potential cooling in Pacific
water temperatures sufficient to prompt a mild La Nina early in 2013.
"If that occurred, it could result in deteriorating crop prospects
for southern Brazil because neutral conditions or a La Nina generally increases
the chances of dryer than normal weather in southern Brazil," Michael
Cordonnier, at Soybean and Corn Advisor, said.
The concern for Brazilian corn was that, until rains the
last couple of days, the southern states of Brazil had gone without rainfall
for some three weeks, with even the latest round of precipitation "not enough
to recharge soil moisture levels".
The concern is that, with December the key month for
southern Brazilian states, responsible for more than half Brazil's main corn
crop, "if we not get the moisture back, and temperatures go back up, we are
going to have a lot of corn during pollination," a poor harbinger for yields.
Indeed, Dr Cordonnier said that he may next week downgrade
his forecast for Brazilian corn output in 2012-13 "depending on the forecast".
The El Nino-La Nina spectrum is closely watched because of
its impact on world crop production, with many blaming a La Nina for the dry
weather which cut crop production this year in the US and South America.
'Late surge in
The ICCO's comments came as it ditched ideas of a world
cocoa output deficit, of 19,000 tonnes, in 2011-12, saying that the season, which
finished in September, produced a surplus of 90,000 tonnes.
The revision reflected in the main higher estimates for world
production, thanks to a "late surge in arrivals and purchases" of beans in the
top two producing countries, Ghana and Ivory Coast.
However, the organisation flagged a "slow start" to deliveries
by farmers in Ghana in 2012-13, in part a hangover from the "heavy selling"
towards the end of last season.