ICCO ditches idea of world cocoa output deficit

The International Cocoa Organization underlined the growing importance of West Africa on the cocoa trade as it ditched ideas of a world production deficit this season, thanks largely to better-than-expected Ivory Coast output.

The ICCO, while nudging higher by 15,000 tonnes to 108,000 tonnes its estimate for the world production deficit last season, axed a forecast of a shortfall at all in 2013-14, which ends next month, seeing instead a 40,000-tonne surplus.

The revision from a previous estimate of a 75,000-tonne deficit, reflected in the main "a larger-than-previously-estimated main crop in Ivory Coast as well as in Ghana and a stronger anticipated mid-crop in Ivory Coast", the organisation said.

Indeed, the "weak" occurrence of the Harmattan winds, which blows hot and dry air in from the Sahara, in West Africa in its December-to-March season "and the adequate rainfall interspersed with sunshine in April this year, have been conducive conditions for a strong mid-crop", the ICCO said.

Ivory Coast record?

The group upgraded by 120,000 tonnes 1.73m tonnes its forecast for output in Ivory Coast, the top producing country - on paper a record high, beating the 1.511m tonnes reached in 2010-11.

ICCO 2013-14 cocoa estimates, change on last and (year on year)

Production: 4.345m tonnes, +183,000 tonnes, (+403,000 tonnes)

Consumption: 4.262m tonnes, 67,000 tonnes, (+151,000 tonnes)

Surplus: 40,000 tonnes, +115,000 tonnes, (+248,000 tonnes)

Stocks-to-use ratio: 38.9%, + 1.6 points, (-0.5 points)

"However, it should be noted that the 2010-11 figure significantly underestimates the size of the harvest due to smuggling to neighbouring countries, while the figure for 2013-14 may overestimate the current harvest due to smuggling from neighbouring countries," the ICCO said.

"Taking this factor into account, cocoa harvested in the 2010-11 season may still remain the largest on record."

The estimate for neighbouring Ghana was lifted by 70,000 tonnes to 920,000 tonnes, and for Nigeria by 10,000 tonnes to 240,000 tonnes, more than offsetting small downgrades to estimates for crops in Cameroon in Ecuador.

The estimate for world production was lifted by 183,000 tonnes to a record 4.345m tonnes, beating the previous high of 4.309m tonnes set three seasons ago.

'Highest increase in processing activity'

However, the ICCO also stressed the growing hold of Africa, responsible for 73% of world output, on processing too, with the forecast for grindings in the continent upgraded by 54,000 tonnes to 867,000 tonnes.

"Africa aims to register the highest increase in processing activity of over 9%," the organisation said.

Again, Ivory Coast is expected to lead the way, with a jump of 14% in volumes this season to 535,000 tonnes, and further growth expected in 2014-15.

"Ranked at number two this season, Ivory Coast is expected to become the world's top cocoa processing country next season, with the addition of the newly operating cocoa processing plant of Olam in San Pedro since the second quarter of 2014."

Indonesia vs Malaysia

The ICCO also flagged the improving fortunes of Indonesia's "booming" processing sector, which is expected to grind 315,000 tonnes of beans, 20,000 tonnes more than previously expected.

The organisation highlighted that the country's government "has been considering removing import duty on cocoa, and thereby facilitating the importation of cocoa beans to feed Indonesia's growing processing demands".

By contrast, Malaysian volumes were estimated at 260,000 tonnes, a downgrade of 15,000 tonnes, "as the intense competition for cocoa beans from Indonesia takes its toll on the former's processing activities".

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