Hackett Advisors in the News

By  ISIS ALMEIDA - November 13, 2012

Chocolate rush hits record as cocoa shortages loom

Cocoa grinders are increasing output by the most in two years to meet record demand for chocolate, at a time when declining West African supply means the first shortages of beans in three seasons.

Processing will jump 4.9 percent in the season that began Oct. 1, according to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based Commodities Risk Analysis LC, which has tracked the market for 17 years. Chocolate sales will climb 5.7 percent to $108 billion, London- based Euromonitor International Ltd. estimates. Prices will rise as much as 7.3 percent to 1,665 pounds ($2,646) a metric ton in the first half of 2013 in London, according to the mean of 17 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Beans yield powder, used in cookies and ice cream, and butter, which accounts for about 20 percent of a chocolate bar. Grinders curbed output this year after powder demand fell and they used stockpiled butter to supply candy makers. Reserves are running out just as chocolate buying accelerates and as harvests in the biggest cocoa growers are crimped by dry weather. Processing will likely expand, according to Barry Callebaut AG, which supplies chocolate to Nestle SA and Hershey Co.

“Cocoa is a good buy at the moment,” said Shawn Hackett, the president of Hackett Financial Advisors Inc. in Boynton Beach, Florida, whose prediction in February for a rally was followed by a 15 percent rebound in three months. “When cocoa powder demand comes back in the first half of next year, the upside rebound in cocoa bean demand will be much greater than it has been in the past.”

Oilseed Prices

While futures have climbed 12 percent to 1,552 pounds a ton on NYSE Liffe since the start of January, they are poised for the lowest annual average in four years. Hackett expects a gain of as much as 40 percent in the first half of 2013 from now, he said on Nov. 7. The last time prices rose more than 40 percent in the first half was in 2008.

The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Agricultural Index of eight commodities advanced 8.7 percent this year as drought from the U.S. to Europe to Australia drove grain and oilseed prices higher. The MSCI All-Country World Index of equities climbed 7.5 percent and Treasuries returned 2.7 percent, a Bank of America Corp. index shows.

Rising chocolate demand will boost profit for Barry Callebaut, which also supplies Unilever, the maker of Magnum ice cream. Zurich-based Barry Callebaut predicted average sales volume growth of 6 percent to 8 percent in the next four years, Juergen Steinemann, chief executive officer, said in a media presentation on Nov. 7. That’s above the long-term average growth of 2 percent to 3 percent for global chocolate sales.

Combined Ratio

Grinders’ profitability is determined by the prices of powder and butter divided by the cost of beans, the so-called combined ratio. That rose to 3.13 on Nov. 9, from as low as 2.76 in May, Commodities Risk Analysis data show.

Cocoa demand will exceed production by 101,000 tons this season, Macquarie Group Ltd. estimated in September. Rabobank International predicts a 122,000-ton shortfall. Global output will drop 2.9 percent to 3.85 million tons, led by smaller harvests in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia and Nigeria, Macquarie says. The four nations produce 74 percent of the world’s beans.

The shortages will be among the topics analyzed by the International Cocoa Organization at its first-ever summit in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Nov. 19. The London-based ICCO, which has 41 consuming and producing member nations, is expecting 1,000 people to attend, according to Jean-Marc Anga, the executive director of the ICCO and a native Ivorian.

Emerging Markets

The supply deficit may worsen as accelerating growth in emerging markets spurs demand. Advanced economies will grow 1.5 percent next year as developing nations expand 5.6 percent, the International Monetary Fund predicts. That’s reflected in Euromonitor’s forecasts for a 5.2 percent gain in Asia-Pacific chocolate demand by volume, 4.6 percent in Latin America, 1.3 percent in Western Europe and little change in North America.

Economies are also the biggest threat to the predicted gain in prices. Grindings fell 6.5 percent in 2008-2009, the biggest decline since at least 1960, as the global economy endured its worst recession since World War II, ICCO data show. Retail sales of chocolate contracted 1.3 percent, led by a 5.6 percent drop in North America, according to Euromonitor. Western Europe accounts for 32 percent of global chocolate demand, followed by North America at 20 percent, according to adviser KPMG LLP.

Chocolate Sales

Global chocolate sales growth by tonnage was 1.5 percent this year, down from 2.2 percent in 2011, Euromonitor data show. Growth will rebound in 2013 to 2.2 percent and 2.3 percent the following year. Chocolate consumption and grindings were disconnected this season as processors used stockpiles, said Steven Haws, founder of Commodities Risk Analysis who has followed cocoa since 1979.

The IMF cut its 2013 global growth forecast in July and October and the economy of the 17-nation euro area probably tumbled back into a recession in the third quarter, the median of 25 economist estimates compiled by Bloomberg show. The U.S. also risks returning to recession unless lawmakers resolve the so-called fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to start in 2013, Fitch Ratings said Nov. 8.

“There has been a pretty good link between global GDP growth and the growth of chocolate consumption in the last 20 to 30 years and I don’t think you can just throw that link away,” said Jonathan Parkman, the co-head of agriculture at Marex Spectron Group in London. “Unless there is a stronger-than- anticipated recovery in global GDP growth, I don’t see where the surprise is going to come from in chocolate consumption.”

Forward Sales

First-half prices are also at risk because of pre-harvest sales by the top growers. Ivory Coast, accounting for 37 percent of supply, introduced a policy in January of state-backed forward sales to give farmers a price guarantee that is 60 percent of the world market value. Ghana has a similar program and the two are creating an unprecedented amount of supply in futures markets for the period and that may cap a rally.

The “small contraction” in global cocoa processing last season may reverse this year partly because of emerging market demand, said Laurent Pipitone, the head of the ICCO’s economics and statistics unit. The ICCO will report the revision during the conference next week in Abidjan. It last forecast growth of 0.4 percent in processing for 2011-12.

European bean grindings slid 18 percent in the second quarter and 16 percent in the third, Brussels-based European Cocoa Association data show. North American grindings fell 9.8 percent in the second quarter and 2.2 percent in the third, the National Confectioners Association in Washington estimates.

Butter Inventories

Cocoa-butter inventories have contracted enough to spur factories to raise output, according to Hackett. Barry Callebaut also expects grindings to accelerate, Steinemann told journalists on a conference call Nov. 7. European powder prices dropped 19 percent this year as the relative cost of butter jumped 38 percent, Commodities Risk Analysis data show.

There may be fewer beans for the grinders to buy. Ghana will produce less for a second year and Ivorian output will drop to a three-year low after dry weather, Macquarie forecasts. As much as 40 percent of the global crop is lost to pests and disease every year, according to the ICCO. An average cocoa tree produces about 30 usable pods a year, yielding enough beans to make about 2 pounds of dark chocolate, according to the website of Hershey, the maker of Hershey’s, Reese’s and Kit Kat.

Bullish Bets

Cocoa inventories with a valid grading certificate in warehouses monitored by NYSE Liffe dropped 39 percent this year by Oct. 29. Money managers increased bullish bets almost 14 times since March 6, when speculators began betting on higher prices, exchange data yesterday show.

Barry Callebaut will report an 87 percent gain in net income to 265.8 million Swiss francs ($280 million) in its fiscal year ending in August, based on the mean of 10 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Its shares dropped 1.4 percent to 913 francs in Zurich trading this year.

“We’ve been in a recession or some degree of slowdown for four or five years now, so the initial shock has passed and people are getting on with things,” said Lee Linthicum, the head of food research at Euromonitor. “Before if you went to a dinner party, you would bring a box of Ferrero, but now it’s perfectly acceptable to bring a box of private label. That’s supporting volume sales regardless of the economic uncertainties.”


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