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Ivory Coast to overtake Netherlands as top cocoa processor

Ivory Coast will this season overtake the Netherlands as the world's top cocoa processing nation, the International Cocoa Organization said, as it forecast a return to a world production deficit.

The ICCO, issuing its first estimates for 2014-15, forecast declines in both world production and consumption.

However, output will fall further to drag itself 17,000 tonnes behind consumption, returning the sector to a production deficit after a small surplus, of 30,000 tonnes, last season.

The relatively small drop in demand reflects ideas of growth in Africa, and in particularly in Ivory Coast - long the top cocoa-producing country, which will become the top processing nation too.

'Lose its top position'

Ivory Coast cocoa grindings in 2014-15, which began in October, will climb by 4% to 540,000 tonnes, "reflecting the continuous tendency to expand processing capacity", the ICCO said.

The country has encouraged cocoa grinding in-country, to add value to its production, while for processors crushing beans at origin saves on transport costs and can offer wage savings, prompting the likes of Olam to open plants in Ivory Coast.

For the Netherlands, meanwhile, long the world's top cocoa processing country, largely thanks to the importance of its ports, and its colonial links to some cocoa growing countries, grindings will drop 1% to 529,000 tonnes this season.

"The country is expected to lose its top position in processing activities to Ivory Coast," the organisation said.

Europe will, however, remain the top processing region, at 1.57m tonnes, down 1% year on year, ahead of the Americas at 903,000 tonnes, with African grindings seen growing by nearly 2% to 877,000 tonnes.

Harmattan damage

The forecast for a drop in world production, seen falling by 123,000 tonnes to 4.23m tonnes, reflects expectations of damage from "drier-than-average weather patterns" in West Africa, which is responsible for some two-thirds of global output.

"The dusty seasonal Harmattan winds that blow southward from the Sahara desert into West Africa from December to March were more severe than expected, while the dry hot weather conditions currently prevailing have been raising concerns for the mid-crop in the region," the ICCO said.

Ivory Coast output was seen falling by 26,000 tonnes this season to 1.72m tonnes, while Ghana output was pegged at 810,000 tonnes, a drop of 87,000 tonnes.

"With reports indicating a more severe impact of the Harmattan winds on the country's cocoa production than in neighbouring countries, it looks increasingly likely that the performance of the previous season will not be met."

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