Record Cocoa Exports Seen in Ecuador as New Trees Boost Output

Ecuador, the top grower of flavored cocoa beans used in fine chocolate, expects record exports this year as new plants and education programs increase output, the head of the country’s National Cocoa Exporters Association said.

Cocoa-bean exports from the South American country will probably increase to about 170,000 metric tons in 2013, a 7.6 percent gain over last year, Ivan Ontaneda, president of the association known as Anecacao, said today in a telephone interview from the coastal city of Guayaquil. The group forecasts exports of the bean will jump about 12 percent to 190,000 metric tons in 2014, he said.

An additional 50,000 hectares (123,550 acres) of new trees planted in 2009 and 2010 are beginning to bear fruit, boosting output and offsetting lost production from a cold snap earlier this year, Ontaneda said. Yields are also increasing as government programs to educate small farmers, who make up 95 percent of the country’s growers, improve harvests, he said.

“A good harvest is coming,” said Ontaneda, 45, who’s also the chief executive officer of Guayaquil-based cocoa exporter Eco-Kakao SA. “It’ll be a record.”

The London-based International Cocoa Organization said on Sept. 27 that processing will outpace the global bean harvest by as much as 70,000 metric tons in the year that began Oct. 1. Drier-than-normal weather hurt crops in West Africa, which produces 70 percent of the global harvest.

Cocoa growers in Ecuador, which has been producing the raw ingredient used to make chocolate for more than 500 years, plan to more than double output to 400,000 metric tons by 2020 to keep up with demand for chocolate, Ontaneda said. The cocoa tree is native to the tropical South American rainforests east of the Andes Mountains, according to the ICCO.

Cocoa for delivery in March rose 0.9 percent to 1,718 pounds ($2,778) a ton at 1:53 p.m. New York time on NYSE Liffe in London. Cocoa for delivery in December rose 1.1 percent to $2,715 a ton on ICE Futures U.S. in New York.

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