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Disease losses fuel world cocoa shortfall - ICCO

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Concerns over Indonesia's ageing plantations and disease in Cameroon, as well as a forecast for record consumption, are behind expectations of a second successive year of world production deficit.

The International Cocoa Organization late on Friday, in its first forecast for 2013-14, which started in October, estimated world production falling 115,000 tonnes behind consumption.

This following a shortfall in 2012-13 too, which the ICCO upgraded by 14,000 tonnes to 174,000 tonnes.

While production will grow this season, by 4.1% to 4.10m tonnes, this will not be able to overtake consumption, seen growing by 2.5% to a record 4.18m tonnes.

'Boosted pod setting'

The ICCO, in comments obtained by Agrimoney.com, highlighted a strong start to the season in Ivory Coast, the top cocoa grower, where "the main crop harvest started very strong, indeed stronger than anticipated, with record arrivals week after week".

The rapid supplies reflected releases from stockpiles built-up by farmers and traders who had, correctly, forecast higher prices, besides being down to a strong harvest helped by above-average rains in May and June which "boosted the pod setting".

Prospects for the, smaller, mid-crop are less certain, with the organisation highlighting "mixed reports" over yields and quality, because of drier-than-ideal weather in some regions.

Nonetheless, Ivory Coast supplies are seen rising by 101,000 tonnes, or 7.0%, to 1.55m tonnes this season.

'Vulnerable to pests and diseases'

But Nigeria is expecting a slightly smaller crop, at 220,000 tonnes, thanks to an outbreak of black pod disease, which has caused even bigger losses in neighbouring Cameroon.

Indeed, Cameroon output is set to fall by 15,000 tonnes to 210,000 tonnes, the ICCO said, noting that "an outbreak since November of the fungal black pod disease that thrives in wet weather conditions has spread during the prolonged rainfall in the Centre and South-West regions, the two main cocoa-producing areas".

Output in Indonesia, the third-ranked grower, will fall too, down 10,000 tonnes to a 10-year low of 410,000 tonnes, a decline blamed on the impact of unduly wet weather on a trees which, planted largely in the 1980s, are well past peak productivity.

"The country has been struggling to increase production in recent years as most of its trees are ageing.

"They are consequently vulnerable to pests and diseases which are hard to eradicate as a result of the vast network of smallholders."

'Unprecedented level'

Cocoa grinding volumes, meanwhile, are expected to grow, as "the appetite for chocolate has returned in the mature markets and is still growing in the emerging ones".

European grindings will grow by more than 2% to 1.61m tonnes while, in Asia, Indonesian processing volumes will rise by 20,000 tonnes to 275,000 tonnes.

However, again, it is Ivory Coast which is expected to lead the charge on grindings, cementing its place as the second biggest processing country, behind the Netherlands, gained last season.

"This season, the main contributor to this [world consumption] increase is anticipated to originate from Ivory Coast, where grindings shot to an unprecedented level of 471,000 tonnes in 2012-13 and are expected to continue growing in the current season."

Volumes are being helped by the opening of processing plant in San Pedro.

By Agrimoney.com

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