Buyers in Europe’s physical cocoa market are having to pay top dollar for quality beans from leading global producers Ivory Coast and Ghana to compete with stronger U.S. prices, raising cost fears for grinders and chocolate makers.
The soaring prices could hit the cocoa users hard next season, especially if the upcoming crop disappoints, as they could be forced to buy large volumes at hefty premiums when they return to the market to restock.
Premiums for Ivory Coast cocoa are currently at 160-170 pounds a tonne over spot London futures LCCc1, their highest in about eight years, while Ghana premiums are around eight-year-highs of 300-350 pounds, five traders told Reuters.
The price surge comes as U.S. futures CCc2 climb to around
$150 a tonne over London futures LCCc2, marking a significant reversal for a market that has for years commanded a discount of around $150-200 to London.
“There’s a huge shortage of near term supply. If you want to buy good quality beans in Europe, you’re not going find them or they’ll be very expensive,” said a trader.
Although most cocoa users have stocked up for now, they will return to the market from October to restock.
“New York is now a lot more expensive than London, so good quality cocoa is drawn to the New York exchange. If you want to buy cocoa in Europe, you have to pay more to compensate for the difference,” added the trader.
Despite the price surge on Europe’s physical markets, leading producers Ivory Coast and Ghana have teamed up to impose a minimum price that chocolate companies and processors must pay if they want to access the more than 60% of global supply under their control.
The move is an attempt to ease the poverty of farmers that has become a blight on chocolate’s image and a threat to the sector’s future in West Africa.