QUOTE AND NEWS
Forbes  Apr 2  Comment 
Can chocolate help you lose weight? Yes, say scientists, thanks to specific compounds that fight fat and diabetes.
The Hindu Business Line  Mar 20  Comment 
The Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative (Campco) Ltd has extended its cocoa procurement network to Andhra Pradesh. The cooperative opened a cocoa procurement...
Wall Street Journal  Mar 19  Comment 
With a name reminiscent of a "Star Wars" droid and a reputation for having an acidic taste, the CCN 51 cocoa bean is an unlikely savior of the chocolate market.
Reuters  Mar 19  Comment 
Cargill, one of the world's top cocoa dealers, has boosted its cocoa processing in Europe to meet growing demand for premium chocolates, the company said on Wednesday, its second...
NPR  Mar 18  Comment 
Dark chocolate may help the heart and waistline. Now scientists have figured out one reason why: Bacteria in the gut turn cocoa into compounds that lower inflammation and make us feel full.
Financial Times  Mar 17  Comment 
Drought, disease and rising demand push up the prices of coffee, orange juice, wheat, sugar, milk, butter, cocoa and pork by an average of almost 25%
Agrimoney.com  Mar 17  Comment 
The El Nino weather pattern viewed as a growing possibility may hurt, say, cocoa and palm oil output. But for sugar, US corn, damage is less certain
Agrimoney.com  Mar 3  Comment 
The International Cocoa Organization, explaining its forecast for a second year of cocoa production deficit, notes setbacks in Cameroon and Indonesia
guardian.co.uk  Mar 1  Comment 
What's the cost of your conscience? Very little, if you buy Fairtrade coffee, tea, cocoa, oranges and bananas What's the cost of your conscience? About £1.18, according to my calculations. That's how much extra it cost me to buy Fairtrade...




 


This article is about the commodity in general. For the futures contract traded on the ICE see Cocoa Futures.

Americans consume about 3 billion pounds of chocolate annually, but consume less per capita than Europeans. Sixteen out of twenty of the top chocolate consuming countries (per capita) are European. Chocolate consumption is seasonal. People tend to consume more chocolate during Winter time. Prices for chocolate have nearly doubled since 2006, due to crop shortages, and increased consumption of chocolate (especially of dark chocolate, which requires more cocoa). [1]

Chocolate must be processed from cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and sometimes other oil products. Companies like BT COCOA, Barry Callebaut, Cargill, and Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) buy cocoa in bulk from Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia and a few South American countries, then process and sell it to confectioners like Hershey Foods (HSY), Nestle (NSRGY), Mars, and Cadbury Schweppes (CSG) , to melt, mold, and package. Demand for chocolate directly creates the demand for cocoa, while the supply of cocoa is contingent on the production of African and South American farms.

Currently, the world's top five cocoa producing nations are the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria and Cameroon, which together account for 70% of global cocoa production each year. [2]

In July 2008, demand for cocoa powder exceeded supply more than it has for 20 years as companies placed increasing numbers of orders for cocoa powder while suppliers were producing less. This situation means that prices of cocoa will increase further until increasing chocolate prices decrease cocoa consumption and lower demand. Supply and demand of cocoa are measured by the stocks to grinding ratio. A low ratio means that there is not a lot of cocoa powder to sell and grinders are working at capacity to meet demand. [3] As of June 2008, cocoa prices had risen 50% from the previous year, hitting a 28 year high. [4]

The chart at left shows spot prices for Cocoa on the intercontinental exchange.

Companies that stand to lose from higher cocoa prices

  • Hershey Foods (HSY) and Cadbury Schweppes (CSG) buy chocolate from the Archer Daniel Midlands company, and other wholesalers. Another publicly traded confectioner which relies on cheap cocoa prices for good mark-ups is the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (RMCF). One executive analysis notes that large confectioners can only pass about 80% of raw material costs to customers. They absorb the other 20% of the costs on their income statement.[5]

What factors increase the price of cocoa?

More demand for chocolate

More demand for chocolate increases the price of cocoa, which is chocolate's primary ingredient. Demand for chocolate increased by 20% between 2002 and 2007, as measured by consumption. [6]

Increased standard of living in India and China are creating demand for chocolate bars, which used to be considered an elite luxury item. Because of their massive populations, these countries could drive up demand for chocolate and increase the price of cocoa. Chocolate consumption in India, China and demand has been increasing by 15-20% annually. [7]

Mandatory Improvement in African Labor Standards

If the the world's governments act against child slavery and widespread human rights violation in Cote d'Ivoire and Sub-Saharan Africa, the price of cocoa will rise. Below poverty wages and the use of child labor keeps the price of harvesting cocoa down. Reports of up to 200,000 child slaves busy harvesting cocoa has raised humanitarian pleas, but no significant action has yet been taken to improve working conditions in the Ivory Coast.[8]Once the humanitarian crisis in Darfur is resolved, the UN will have more resources to deploy in Africa. Cote d'Ivoire would be a logical next step for intervention. When workers receive proper wages and working conditions, African production costs will increase, and raise cocoa prices.

Conflict in the Cocoa Rich Ivory Coast

Intervention in the Ivory Coast (and Africa in general) is made difficult by regional instability. Cote d'Ivoire almost had a civil war in 2002, and is still in a precarious political situation. The country also produces 46% of the World's cocoa. If conflict breaks out, expect cocoa prices to go through the roof due to destroyed or unharvested crops and damaged shipping infrastructure in Africa.

Soil Erosion, Drought, and Disease

Small crops in cocoa producing countries lower the supply of chocolate. World chocolate consumption is increasing, so the price of cocoa increases. Destructive diseases, such as black pod disease, and adverse weather patterns have plagued cocoa yields in Africa for the past 15 years, losing growers $700 million annually. [9]

This year, adverse weather and disease have struck once again, and cocoa prices have skyrocketed due to shortage. Due to an overabundance of rain, Cote D'Ivoire is expected to produce 1.1 million metric tons of cocoa for 2008/09, down 20% from last year's 1.38 million metric tons. Indonesia is also expected to produce less cocoa this year, at 490,000 metric tons (down 5,000 from last year). Production increases in Ghana and Cameroon can't close the gap, and worldwide cocoa production is expected to drop 7% to 3.456 million metric tons for the 2008/09 crop year.[10]

The director of Ghana's Nature Conservation Research Council, John Mason, believes that African cocoa may be extinct in 20 years due to irresponsible growing practices and resulting soil erosion in Africa. [11]

Increasing Focus on Antioxidants

Increased publicity of cocoa's antioxidant content may entice people who value their Health & Wellness . Cocoa contains far more antioxidants (which can prevent stroke, cancer, and heart disease) than any other food. For a while, people were encouraged to drink red wine for the antioxidants. A cup of cocoa has twice as many antioxidants. [12]

What factors decrease the price of cocoa?

More Demand for Non-Chocolate Sweets

More demand for other sweets that could substitute for chocolate could lower cocoa prices. This demand for other sweets may arise precisely because of increased chocolate prices, though. These sweets could include cakes, hard candy, and non-chocolate cookies.

Genetic Research Boosting Cocoa Supplies

Not nearly as much genetic research has gone into cocoa as other foods. The Mars Company is spearheading research into the cocoa genome to make more pest, disease, and sun-resistant cocoa crops. Cocoa used to grow best in well shaded areas, until genetic research made cocoa plants considerably more sun-resistant. African farmers also need to implement better crop rotation, and farming techniques to improve their yields. [13] As cocoa farming becomes more technologically advanced, there will be more cocoa on the market, driving prices down.

Cocoa Futures Contracts



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Notes

  1. The World Atlas of Chocolate
  2. "Chocolate Cravings" - Hard Assets Investor, 9/10/09
  3. Confectionery News
  4. Confectionary News Reports Skyrocketing Cocoa Prices
  5. Cocoa Price Absorption
  6. Growth of Chocolate Demand
  7. Asian Chocolate Consumption Spikes
  8. Child Slavery in the Chocolate Industry
  9. Drought and Cocoa Crop Damage
  10. "Chocolate Cravings" - Hard Assets Investor, 9/10/09
  11. Chocolate Production Could Halt Due to Soil Problems
  12. Cocoa Has Major Antioxidant Content
  13. Avoiding Chocolate Extinction
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