Business World

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Sweet deal for growers as demand for chocolate soars

Morgane Lapeyre

THE world's growing love of chocolate means more expensive treats for the Easter holiday.

Demand is rising at the fastest pace in three years, according to Euromonitor International and farmers in West Africa aren't growing enough cocoa to keep up.

The cost of beans used to make chocolate reached a 30-month high in March, forcing confectioners to charge their customers more. Lucy Armstrong, who sells sweets online from Chichester, England, said the cost of a 10kg pack of bulk chocolate she uses to make champagne truffles, pralines and salty caramels surged 18pc this year.

She's raised the price of chocolate Easter eggs by 50pc from last year, just before demand picks up and she plans another increase in the next six months.

"It's definitely the first time where the chocolate has gone up quite noticeably," said Armstrong, who started Lucy Armstrong Chocolates three years ago and now charges £7.50 (€9) for a 170g Belgian milk-chocolate egg containing six hand-made chocolates, up from £5 in 2013.

"It is hard to try and work out what you can sell and at what price. The problem is it's only going to go up and up and up."

Cocoa may rally to $3,210 a metric tonne on ICE Futures US in New York by the end of December, the highest since July 2011, according to the average estimate of 14 traders and analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

The US price of cocoa butter, the by-product of crushed beans that accounts for 20pc of the weight of a chocolate bar, rose 86pc in the 12 months through April 11 and is the highest on average for any year since at least 1997, data from the Cocoa Merchants Association of America show.

The cost of other ingredients are also rising, after milk reached records this year in the US and Europe and sugar futures rallied 20pc from a 43-month low in January.

While global bean production will rise for the first time in three years, reaching 4.104 million tonnes in the 12 months to the end of September, that will be less than demand for a second straight year, with processors set to use 4.178 million tonnes, the International Cocoa Organisation in London said.

Supply concerns are being compounded by rising prospects of an El Nino weather pattern, which can bring dry winds to West Africa, including top growers Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Even with higher prices, global demand is growing, especially in developing markets including Asia. Seasonal sales of chocolate on holidays including Easter and Christmas will jump 5pc this year, Euromonitor said. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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