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Cocoa soars above $11,000 a ton as processing pace holds up

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Cocoa futures hit a new high in New York — topping $11,000 a metric ton — as the pace of processing in chocolate factories holds up even in the face of a global supply crunch and record prices.
Figures released Thursday showed so-called grinds — where cocoa is turned into butter and powder used in confectionery — fell only about 2% in Europe and inched lower in Asia during the first quarter from a year earlier. Processing in North America ticked up nearly 4%. That comes even as futures prices have more than doubled since the start of 2024.

The grindings numbers are “nowhere near the deterioration we needed to end this rally,” said John Goodwin, a senior commodity analyst at ArrowStream Inc. “It’s crazy how resilient those numbers were.”

New York futures rose as much as 11% to a record high of $11,126 a metric ton, the biggest intraday jump in over a month. The most-active contract in London also surged nearly 11%.

bloom cocoaBloomberg

The market is watching processing data to get an idea of whether the rally is starting to hurt demand and how hard it’s becoming for chocolatiers to obtain beans, though the data risks becoming a less reliable gauge of demand as shortfalls make it more difficult to source cocoa.

Paul Joules, an analyst at Rabobank in London, said the grindings figures are “an indication that for now demand is holding up despite current pricing,” adding that “demand destruction will come, but clearly it’s taking longer to filter into grind data than the market was anticipating.”

But the small drop in European grinds also suggests that processors in the region tried to cover for closures in West African facilities, said Judy Ganes, president at J Ganes Consulting. That means global processing in the first quarter could still have been level or lower.

“Definitely can’t say it is bullish,” Ganes said of the European grindings figures. “It does not mean that use is not affected by the higher prices.”

The International Cocoa Organization in February estimated that global grindings will fall almost 5% this season, driven by a 7% drop in African processing. A severe cocoa shortage and the ensuing price spike has forced some processors to halt production intermittently or pay premiums to book beans from minor growers to secure supplies.

The pace of grindings could “remain subdued into 2025” as strong first-quarter data suggest that processors will need to replenish stockpiles of beans at higher prices, Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Diana Gomes and Ignacio Canals Polo wrote in a Thursday note. Consumer demand will also stay under pressure as recent cocoa price increases trickle down to retail shelves, the analysts said.

Prices

  • Cocoa gained 9.6% to settle at $11,035 a metric ton in New York, while London futures rose 8.9%
  • Arabica coffee fell 3.9% in New York, snapping an seven-session winning streak, and robusta coffee was down 3.2% in London
  • Raw sugar rose 1.4% in New York, breaking a nine-day slump

source
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