Ghana Cocoa Buying Said to Jump After Last Year’s Shortfall

  • Cocobod said to buy about 590,000 metric tons from growers
  • Cocoa crop fell to a five-year low in the 2014-15 season

Cocoa purchases from farmers in Ghana jumped this season after the world’s second-largest producer of the chocolate beans gathered the smallest crop in five years.

Industry regulator Ghana Cocoa Board, or Cocobod, bought about 590,000 metric tons from growers from Oct. 1 through Jan. 14, according to a person familiar with the data who asked not to be identified because the information is private. That’s an increase of more than 20 percent from a year earlier, data from KnowledgeCharts, a unit of Commodities Risk Analysis, showed.

Ghana’s cocoa crop fell to a five-year low in the 2014-15 season, missing the government’s forecast and prompting export delays. While the purchases data appears to indicate Ghana’s crop is “back on track,” a slowdown in bean arrivals in neighboring Ivory Coast raises questions, said Edward George, head of soft commodities research at Ecobank Transnational.

“The fact that Cocobod fails to publish regular purchase data, leaving it to analysts and rumor mongers to estimate deliveries, means we have to take the information with a pinch of salt,” he said by e-mail Wednesday. Until Cocobod publishes production figures, “everything is pure speculation.”

Cocoa Harvest

While the cocoa purchases are much bigger than last season’s 475,000 tons, they are still below the level from the 2013-14 season when it was 624,000 tons, according to KnowledgeCharts data.

In Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer, cocoa bean deliveries to ports are slowing. At the beginning of the season, the pace was ahead of last year. In the most recent data, it was 9 percent below.

A similar trend should have happened in Ghana, said George of Ecobank, which finances the cocoa trade.

The purchase data from the Ghana Cocoa Board tracks beans that companies have declared they acquired. In the past, buying companies have declared purchases before buying, making the crop look bigger than it actually is.

If Cocobod purchase data is correct, Ghana could be on track for a normal crop of 800,000 to 850,000 tons, George said. That would be higher than last year, though still lower than the bumper harvests of 2010-11 and 2013-14.

(Updates with analyst comment in third paragraph.)

--With assistance from Andres Martinez and Sarah McGregor.