Cocoa prices – temporarily – revived after data showed European usage of the bean rising by its fastest rate in 11 years to a record high, led by a 36% jump in German consumption.
Western Europe’s cocoa grind hit 377,388 tonnes in the July-to-September period, a rise of 14.0% year on year, and the fastest rate of increase since the same quarter of 2000, the European Cocoa Association.
The total, taken from data submitted by chocolate groups such as Barry Callebaut, Kraft and Nestle, beat the 354,571 tonnes reached in the first quarter of 2008, and reflected in particular strong growth in Germany.
Separate data from the BDSI, a national confectionery industry association, showed Germany’s grind rocketing 36% to 128,288 tonnes.
The figures were ahead of market expectations, and took the year-on-year increase in western Europe’s cocoa grind so far in 2011 to 8.5%. The grind grew by 3.1% in 2010.
"The data were pretty impressive," Rabobank analyst Keith Flury said.
However, he voiced caution over interpreting the data as meaning bumper European demand, saying the figures were likely skewed by as hangover from Ivory Coast unrest early in the year, processors ran through inventory built up over fears of turmoil in the top cocoa-producing country.
"When things turned sour in the Ivory Coast, there was definitely a buy up" by foreign processors, Mr Flury said.
"I do not expect these sorts of levels of consumption growth to stay up."
Emerging market impact
The European grind is also being flattered by growing exports to emerging market countries, where consumption is growing strongly, in part on the bean’s alleged health benefits, but where processing capacity is relatively small.
"Nonetheless, cocoa prices are up when the dollar is up this morning too, and that’s significant when expectations for cocoa production are high in 2011-12," Mr Flury told Agrimoney.com.
However, the prospect of firm output, with strong crops forecast from some second-ranked producers – Cameroon and Nigeria talking of record output – besides from Ivory Coast and Ghana, snuffed out the rally.
London cocoa for December rose 2% to touch £1,725 a tonne at one point on Thursday only to fall back to £1,687 a tonne, unchanged on the day. The lot earlier in the week set a two-year low for a spot contract of £1,672 a tonne.
New York cocoa for December, which posted a similar intraday gain, ended at $2,630 a tonne, down 0.1% on the day.
Managed money exit
Speculators have been particularly gloomy over the outlook for cocoa prices, running up a net short position of 14,000 contracts in New York futures and options, the highest for at least five years, according to regulatory data.
The extent of the sell-off rates the bean, with Chicago wheat and soymeal, as "the most heavily oversold" US farm commodities, according to Australia & New Zealand Bank.