Cocoa prices to stay low, says Barry Callebaut

Barry Callebaut forecast that cocoa prices, whose volatility left the chocolate giant's sales some SFr130m below investor expectations in the latest quarter, would remain at the lower end of the trading range which has dragged them to a nine-month low.

The Swiss-based group, the world's biggest manufacturer of chocolate and cocoa products, flagged that cocoa beans had averaged 20% lower over the past year than in 2011.

While cocoa futures topped £1,700 a tonne in early September - "due to uncertainties with regards to the main crop as well as the cocoa reform in Ivory Coast", the top producer of the bean, which has brought crop marketing under a single regulator prices fell to £1,414 a tonne last week, their weakest since April.

"Short-term, we expect cocoa prices to trade on the low side of the well-settled range of the past 12 months," the group said.

That implies values well below levels of 2011, let alone of 2010 when London futures topped £2,700 a tonne, hitting their highest since 1977.

Sales drop

Cocoa prices have fallen back thanks to the refill to world supplies provided by a world surplus in 2011-12, waning ideas of a deficit forecast for this season, and thanks to a less disruptive start to Ivory Coast cocoa reforms than many investors had expected.

Barry Callebaut, which makes chocolate on behalf of groups such as Hershey, Kraft and Nestle, blamed movement in cocoa prices from levels at the time the contracts were struck for a 13.1% to SFr262.9m in revenues at its global sourcing and cocoa division in the September-to-November.

Growth was also "impact by ongoing expansion at some of the factories, as well as higher internal demand for cocoa powder, which limited sales to third parties", the group said.

The decline dragged group revenues 0.6% lower to SFr1.25bn in the quarter.

Investors had expected a rise of nearly 10% in sales to SFr1.38m.

Ahead of the market

The decline in global sourcing and cocoa division overshadowed growth in chocolate sales which, in rising 8.3% during the quarter, "significantly outpaced" a global market which increased by 1.1%, according to Nielsen.

Sales in Asia were particularly strong, rising 17.5% by volume, boosted by a buoyant Chinese market, with Europe seeing volume growth, of 6.2% despite "a market environment which was still depressed in southern Europe".

Nonetheless, Barry Callebaut shares eased 12.8% to SFr893.50 in morning deals.

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