According to the recently released cocoa report by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) data, the global cocoa market has witnessed a significant surge in prices during the month of April 2023, reaching a six-year high in both the London and New York markets.
The data indicated that prices of the front-month cocoa futures contract experienced a notable increase, with London prices rising by 5 percent from US$2,630 to US$2,773 per tonne, and New York prices soaring by 11 percent from US$2,868 to US$3,177 per tonne for the May-23 contract.
This unexpected price hike has drawn attention to several factors contributing to the upward trend, primarily centered around concerns over cocoa bean availability and weather-related challenges in key cocoa-producing regions.
Meanwhile, the global cocoa market finds itself grappling with a persistent supply deficit, primarily resulting from a low level of cocoa bean supply from West Africa, particularly the leading producer, Côte d’Ivoire.
The Inadequate supply of cocoa beans from this region has played a significant role in triggering the recent price hikes. Cocoa farmers in West Africa have been facing numerous challenges, including the scarcity of fertilizers and pesticides.
These supply constraints can be traced back to the war in Ukraine, which has limited Russian exports of potash and other fertilizers worldwide. As a result, cocoa producers have been struggling to enhance crop productivity, exacerbating the supply-demand dynamics of the market.
Weather-related Challenges and Black Pod Disease
Compounding the concerns over cocoa bean availability, the ICCO report highlighted the impact of abundant rains in Côte d’Ivoire’s main cocoa-growing regions. While rainfall is typically beneficial for cocoa crops, excessive humidity has raised apprehensions about the potential outbreak of the dreaded black pod disease, which poses a significant threat to the cocoa crop.
The excess moisture in cocoa plantations, a consequence of the massive rains, has heightened the likelihood of this disease, further contributing to the apprehension surrounding cocoa supply.
In light of the current market dynamics, the ICCO report provides insights into the production trends in major cocoa-origin countries. Côte d’Ivoire, despite being the largest producer, has experienced a reduction in cocoa bean arrivals at its ports of exports, with cumulative arrivals lagging behind the volumes recorded during the corresponding period of the previous season. By May 2023, cumulative arrivals stood at 1.945 million tonnes, indicating a decline of 7.04 percent (-137,000 tonnes) compared to the previous cocoa year.
Furthermore, cocoa bean exports from October 2022 to March 2023 were slightly down by 0.5 percent compared to the same period the previous year.
In contrast, Ghana’s cocoa production for the 2022/23 season is expected to surpass the previous year’s levels. The latest information suggests an increase in graded and sealed cocoa beans purchased in Ghana, estimated at 576,738 tonnes from October 2022 to March 2023, reflecting a rise of 10.1 percent (+53,013 tonnes) compared to the corresponding period of the previous season.
This positive trend in Ghana’s production has provided some respite to the global cocoa market amidst the supply deficit.
Meanwhile, Brazil, a prominent player in the cocoa market, witnessed a year-on-year increase in cocoa crop output during the first six months of the 2022/23 cocoa season.
The data published by the Association of the Cocoa Farming Region of Bahia (AIPC) indicated that cocoa production in Brazil reached 79,313 tonnes, reflecting a notable 9 percent rise (+6,286 tonnes) compared to the previous year. This boost in Brazil’s cocoa output has contributed to mitigating the impact of the supply deficit to some extent.
Implications for the Global Cocoa Market
The surge in cocoa prices, driven by the combination of supply deficit concerns and weather-related challenges, is expected to have significant implications for the global cocoa market.
With prices reaching a six-year high, stakeholders across the value chain, from cocoa farmers to chocolate manufacturers, will face increased costs. This could potentially lead to higher retail prices for cocoa-related products, impacting consumer behavior and demand.
Moreover, the supply deficit and the uncertainty surrounding cocoa bean availability may drive industry players to explore alternative sourcing options or invest in cocoa farming and processing technologies. Efforts to enhance crop productivity, improve sustainability practices, and mitigate the impact of climate change on cocoa cultivation are likely to gain further attention.
The recent price surge serves as a reminder of the vulnerability of the cocoa market to various factors, ranging from geopolitical tensions affecting fertilizer supplies to climate-related challenges. As the industry navigates these complexities, stakeholders must work collaboratively to ensure the long-term sustainability and resilience of the cocoa sector.
The April 2023 cocoa’report by the ICCO sheds light on the surge in global cocoa prices, reaching a six-year high in London and New York. Factors such as a supply deficit resulting from low cocoa bean availability from West Africa, particularly Côte d’Ivoire, and concerns over weather-related challenges have contributed to this upward trend.
With production trends varying across key cocoa-origin countries, stakeholders are grappling with the implications of these dynamics on the global cocoa market. As the industry adapts to the evolving landscape, strategic decisions and collaborative efforts will be crucial in ensuring the stability and sustainability of the cocoa sector in the face of such challenges.