ETF Securities Research Blog

Chocolate makers to benefit from cheaper cocoa prices

Cocoa is expected to go back into a supply surplus this year. The surplus will be highest in six years and will weigh on prices. Confectioners, who only last year were reducing the chocolate content of their bars, may be less thrifty this year.

Favourable weather has promoted a good cocoa crop this year in Africa. 70% of global cocoa comes from Africa. The main crop, which contributes to about 80% of the total annual harvest in Africa is be complete in March. The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) yesterday released its supply and demand forecast for 2016/17, showing a return to a production surplus. Seasonal ‘Harmattan’ winds that threaten to damage the crop failed to materialise and its absence has reversed the supply deficit that the market had initially assumed. Cocoa prices have fallen by 40% and speculative positioning has fallen to an all-time low.

The ICCO forecasts that supply will increase by 14.8% to an all-time high of 4.6 million tonnes in 2016/17. Meanwhile demand will only rise 2.9% to 4.2 million tonnes.

Near-term pressures remain on cocoa prices. While port deliveries of cocoa at Ivory Coast have not risen substantially yet, that is due to a disruption with exporters. A number of local exporters who bought cocoa – expecting its price to rise – have defaulted on contracts. That cocoa is piled in warehouses, waiting to be re-auctioned. Once that cocoa is sold the elevated output is likely to enter global supply.

Following the dramatic 40% decline in cocoa prices since August 2016, we believe that demand could make a stronger comeback this year than the ICCO anticipates. In 2016, a number of confectioners reduced the cocoa content of their chocolates in an effort to reduce their costs amid high cocoa prices. Now that cocoa prices have declined, we could see a reversal of that strategy. Consumers concerned that that their Easter eggs will be light on chocolate need not worry with prices this low.