Archive for the ‘FOODSTUFFS’ Category

Welcome to the world of Big Chocolate

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Olam’s purchase of Archer Daniels Midland’s cocoa processing business announced this week catapults the company into the premier league of chocolate. It also leaves the sector in the grip of three companies.

Three companies will dominate processing sector

Barry Callebaut, the Swiss-based cocoa and chocolate group, Cargill, the US privately owned commodities trader, and Olam’s newly expanded cocoa business will account for about 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa processing — once the deal with ADM is completed. It is the world of Big Chocolate.

dark chocolates image

The sector, which “grinds” cocoa beans into butter, powder and liquor used to make chocolate and flavourings for confectionery and desserts, has become increasingly concentrated over the past few decades due to the capital intensive nature of the business.

Many of the deals can be traced back to the merger between Belgian industrial chocolate maker Callebaut and Cacao Barry of France in 1996, which kick-started the sector’s consolidation.

At the start of the 1990s there were about 40 or so significant grinders. In just a decade that figure stood at nine, with ADM, Barry Callebaut and Cargill dominating the sector ever since. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the “ABC” of cocoa accounted for 41 per cent of the world’s processing capacity in 2006.

ADM, along with Cargill, changed the nature of cocoa trading and processing in the 1990s when they bought their knowledge of grain trading into the sector.

Since then, the bigger companies have grown even more powerful by adding new capacity. In 2013, Barry Callebaut bought the processing business of Asian group Petra Foods, cementing its position at the top of the table.

Gerry Manley, Olam’s global head of cocoa, made clear that the company needed to be a leading player in processing to remain “strong” as the company announced its deal with ADM.

Arguably, the cocoa traders and processors are playing catch up with their customers — the chocolate makers. The sector has also seen rapid consolidation, with the top five manufacturers, including Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé, accounting for more than 65 per cent of total confectionery sales.

Chocolate Production Continues At Cadbury During Hostile Takeover Bids

The importance of global brands and rising research and development and marketing costs in an increasingly international and competitive market has pushed consolidation.

According to Ecobank, 70 per cent of the value of the chocolate bar goes to cocoa and chocolate companies reflecting investing R&D and marketing, 17 per cent goes to retailer, 7 per cent goes to intermediaries such as traders.

But as Big Chocolate gets bigger, cocoa farmers are finding themselves increasingly squeezed.

Growers only get 6 per cent of the chocolate bar, down from 16 per cent in 1980, says Edward George at Ecobank. “So little of the value goes into the raw material,” he says.

Leading cocoa and chocolate companies have now united in an action plan to try to support growers to encourage “sustainable” sources of cocoa beans. But, unless that value share changes or the whole pie gets bigger, farmers will find little incentive to continue growing cocoa.

The Commodities Note is an online commentary on the industry from the Financial Times

Henry Sapiecha


Saturday, November 22nd, 2014


Growing market … chocolate sales in China have doubled in the past decade, and on average each person eats 100g annually – but that pales in comparison to the UK, where per capita consumption is 8kg a year. Photograph: Imaginechina/Corbis

Ivory Coast

If you’re looking for a place to start telling the story of chocolate, you could do worse than head to Abengourou, in the east of Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer. Farmers have been growing cocoa for generations here – but, in a week of fresh warnings of a global shortage by 2020, they say that their livelihood is far from easy.

They know the hardships; the risk of diseases, inconsistent rains and buyers forcing them to sell at rock-bottom prices. With aging trees that yield fewer pods and the arduous process of harvesting, farmers have been giving up on their plantations.

Adou Leon, 34, switched to rubber seven years ago. “I know the difficulties that my parents faced with cocoa. This really did not encourage me to start planting cocoa,” he says, adding that “all the young people are turning to rubber.” He believes cocoa could even disappear from this area one day. Another disillusioned cocoa farmer, 40-year-old Armaud Kakou, says he did not want to give up the family tradition of cocoa but, financially, he had no choice. “The people wearing the ties [the government] don’t care about the farmers,” he says. “The farmer has no say. It is miserable.”

Cocoa Production in Abengourou, Ivory Coast - 01 Dec 2011

A man transports cocoa beans on a motor cycle in Abengourou, Ivory Coast. 

The government tells a different story. It says the raft of cocoa reforms it introduced in 2012 to try to keep farmers in the industry – including a return to price fixing – has raised incomes by 30%. And in general, the industry is booming in Ivory Coast. This year’s crop was the largest in the West African nation’s history at nearly 1.8m tonnes of beans; an increase of more than 10% on 2013. It coincided with the government raising the farmer price, for the second year in a row, to 850 CFA francs (£1.02)) per kilo.

On the other side of the country to Abengourou, farmers are in a better mood. “We are very happy with the price,” says Souleymane Bamba, a cocoa farmer from Biankouma in the rich, mountainous region in the west of the country known for growing coffee, not cocoa. Bamba starting growing cocoa three years ago after seeing other farmers in the area doing the same, believing he would get more money. Despite real fears of Ebola – badly hit Liberia and Guinea are just across the border – there has been no impact on exports yet. “There are more young plantations, like mine, starting up,” says Bamba. “ I think cocoa is only going to grow every year.”



When the cocoa bean leaves the farm, it’s still a long way from the world’s favourite treat. To get it a step closer, huge processing plants such as those found in Indonesia are essential. But even in this country – the world’s third-biggest producer – stagnating harvests and heavy demand mean that more and more of the beans that wind up in those plants are coming from other nations – including Ivory Coast.


Indonesia’s problem lay in a troubled, $350m (£223m) cloning experiment that ran in 2009. It was supposed to flood the country’s cocoa farms with 70m disease-resistant, fast-growing seedlings; the government predicted yields would reach 1m tonnes annually. Instead the harvest is in decline, beset on all sides by disease, old age and the cocoa pod borer, a tiny moth that is the bane of Asia’s cocoa growers. Eight years ago production was 600,000 tonnes a year. Now it is just 490,000.

“At the beginning we processed 100% Indonesian beans, but right now there is a local deficit,” says Thomas Jasman, supply chain director at a cocoa grinder on the outskirts of Jakarta, BT Cocoa, where 45% of beans come from Ivory Coast. Domestic demand is such that the BT Cocoa plant runs 24 hours a day. Says Jasman: “Basically, cocoa grinders in Indonesia have been increasing their capacity during the past five years, but the local bean production hasn’t been what we expected.”

Domestic chocolate consumption is growing more than 20% a year, according to the Indonesian Cocoa Industry Association, while rising demand in China, Asia’s largest chocolate market, has foreign companies rushing to break into the region. Cargill, Barry Callebaut and Olam International are all expanding grinding operations in Indonesia.

“We’ve seen a double-digit growth for powder demand annually,” says Jasman. “I think, fundamentally, with a good economy, better purchasing power, increasing middle class, you have these snacks flying off the shelves.”


They may be expanding grinding operations in Indonesia, but Barry Callebaut, the world’s largest chocolate company, keeps its central nervous system firmly based in a country that is synonymous with the stuff: Switzerland.

You have probably never heard of Barry Callebaut, but you are more than likely to have tasted the company’s products. It produces chocolate for Cadbury’s owner Mondelez, Hershey, Unilever, which owns Magnum and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and hundreds of other firms.

“We are the world’s biggest chocolate manufacturer, but you can’t find our products on the shelves,” Raphael Wermuth of Barry Callebaut, says. “We provide chocolate as an ingredient to customers, they then use it to make the final chocolate you buy.”

It was Barry Callebaut’s annual report that sparked the latest round of anxiety about the future of chocolate this week. It joined other major industry players in bemoaning a 25% hike in cocoa prices this year – caused partly by the Ebola crisis – and warning of a “potential chocolate shortage by 2020” of as much as 1m tonnes.

Barry Callebaut supplies chocolate to manufacturers. image

Barry Callebaut supplies chocolate to manufacturers. Photograph: Nelson Antoine/AP

The company, which operates 52 chocolate factories across the world including one in Banbury, Oxfordshire, has warned for some time that consumers are facing a chocolate crisis unless production can be increased to meet growing demand.

Not everyone agrees. Laurent Pipitone, director of economics at the International Cocoa Organisation, says the deficit is likely to be closer to 100,000 tonnes. Still, the price of cocoa beans has increased by almost two-thirds since 2012 to hit £2,000 per tonne in August. This year’s price hike was one of the sharpest since a commodity trader nicknamed “Chocfinger” bought up 7% of the world’s cocoa beans – valued at £658m – in 2010.

Whoever turns out to be right, Barry Callebaut professes to be relatively sanguine. The company says it is insulated from price swings by contracts that charge customers more or less depending on the price of the beans. It has been suggested that the likes of Mondelez and Hershey may try another money-saving tactic that could horrify chocolate lovers even more than price rises: cutting back on the cocoa content. Are Barry Callebaut’s customers trying it? Wermuth declined to say.


When he returned from a spell in the west eight years ago, Xiang Puren brought his new love with him. His Black Koko cafe in central Beijing – with its handmade chocolates, ginger-infused chocolate hotpot and jasmine-tinged iced chocolate – is testament to his passion.

“At that time, China didn’t quite have a chocolate culture, so I wanted to bring it here,” he says.

But Xiang found it harder than anticipated to win hearts and tastebuds. He has already opened and closed several outlets, though he plans to launch more.

US company Lay’s has a line of potato crisps dipped in chocolate.image

“The market is growing, but it might take longer than we expected,” he says.

When observers try to explain rising cocoa prices, China’s 1.4bn consumers sometimes get the blame. Yet while chocolate sales have more than doubled in the last decade, they stood at just $2.43bn (£1.6bn) in 2013 – compared to $17.1bn (£10.9bn) in the US. Consumption per capita is around 100g annually; in the UK, it is 8kg.

In a sense, that is where the worry lies. The big chocolate companies’ battle for supremacy in China is motivated by the idea of a vast, relatively untouched market. When economic reforms began in the late 70s, “there were 1 billion people who had never tasted chocolate,” says Lawrence Allen, whose book Chocolate Fortunes examines the competition. “Chocolate is like cigarettes: you have lifetime consumers of the same brand. In China you had consumers with no taste profile; they were virgin.”

The initial challenge was physical; there was no chilled means of distribution and people shopped at markets rather than air-conditioned grocery stores. Chocolate producers had to wait for retail to catch up. The flavour was also too alien to appeal to many customers, and even mass-market products too expensive.

“You need to write off the older generation. But the people born in the 80s and 90s – that’s your consumer market. Their palate is much broader and you now have 350 to 400 million Chinese with the disposable income to buy chocolate once in a while,” says Allen.

He estimates that perhaps 200 million people in China have tasted chocolate and buy it regularly. But in the long term, he believes, this will become the world’s largest market.

man talks to visitors at a stall of the Salon du Chocolat in Shanghai.image


Despite the analysts who are quick to point to Chinese and Indian consumption to explain the chocolate shortage, there is really another factor closer to home: the remarkable and still growing western taste for chocolate with everything.


You can now find chocolate in increasingly surprising places – in gourmet savoury dishes, vodka and gin and strange new products, such as the chocolate-covered potato crisps launched in the US last year. But perhaps the best example of how chocolate is increasingly infusing a whole category of foods is breakfast cereals.

“When I was a kid there were two chocolate cereals and your mother wouldn’t give them to you unless you did your homework,” says Marcia Mogelonsky, a food and drink analyst for Mintel, based in Chicago. Last year, she says, “40% of cereal launches had chocolate in them”.

Sure enough, on the shelf of a supermarket in Hastings, there are at least 23 varieties of cereal containing chocolate. Within minutes, one woman puts boxes of the supermarket’s own brand chocolate “pillows” and chocolate-flavoured Weetabix in her trolley. “My children like it,” says Linda, a stay-at-home mother of two. “It’s a treat – it’s not something they have week in week out, but once a month they get to choose.”

But these cereals are not just marketed to children. “Now grownups are eating this stuff,” says Mogelonsky. This year, Nestlé launched a cereal based on their Toffee Crisp bar, aimed at the over-35s market. “We have an opportunity to delight adult chocolate-cereal lovers with a more grownup taste profile,” marketing manager Michelle Bull told the Grocer in January. In the cereal aisle of this supermarket, you can find pricey cornflake clusters with “smooth chocolate curls”, and the flavouring makes it into adult “healthy” products, such as bran flakes and granola.

Another shopper, Wendy, says that she gets through around two boxes of chocolate cereal a week, devoured by the international students she hosts in her home. “They love chocolate cereal, and I like to start them off happy.

“Unfortunately my kids have got addicted to it. I try to monitor it though.” I had stopped her in the neighbouring aisle, where she was looking at the chocolate advent calendars, thought to have been first mass-produced in the 1950s. She gave me a look of mock shame: “I don’t think I’m going to be buying one now.”

Henry Sapiecha


Tuesday, May 1st, 2012


GRAINCORP shares jumped on speculation it may become the next takeover target after weekend reports that commodities giant Glencore is bidding about $5.2 billion for Canadian rival Viterra.

Shares of Graincorp rose as much as 70 cents, or 8.6 per cent, to $8.80 before easing back to $8.49 in recent trading.

RBS Morgans agribusiness analyst Belinda Moore said continuing consolidation in the global grains sector “should focus investor’s minds around what Graincorp is worth under a takeover scenario.

“Given the scale and strategic nature of GNC’s assets and the fact that it is the last remaining significant grain company capable of being taken over in Australia, we expect a number of parties could also be interested in Graincorp at some point in the future.”

London’s Sunday Telegraph reported that Glencore, currently pursuing a $US90 billion merger with diversified miner Xstrata plc, was bidding for Viterra, which on Friday (Canadian time) confirmed it had received an expression of interest from a third party.

Viterra bought Australia’s ABB Grain in 2009 for about $1.6 billion.

Viterra’s Australian-listed shares shot up $2.67, or 26 per cent today, to $13.02. Viterra’s Canadian-listed shares rose 24 per cent on Friday to close at $C13.58, giving the company a market cap of $C5.05 billion.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Cargill may also make a tilt at Viterra, according to Bloomberg.

RBS’s Ms Moore said past North American agribusiness takeover deals were priced on average at a 1o times earnings multiple – the enterprise value over the earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortisation – while previous takeover multiples for Australian agribusinesses were about nine times earnings.

On those multiples, Ms Moore estimated Graincorp could be worth between $14.75 – $16.56 a share, using forecast earnings for 2011-12.

The move on Viterra comes as Canada prepares to deregulate grain marketing in August, with the Canadian Wheat Board set to lose its monopoly.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Oil seed $$$ hike ignites food price fear

If rising oil prices were not enough, investors now have to contend with a bigger risk: a repeat of the 2007-08 spike in food prices.

Prices of commodities ranging from soyabeans and corn to rapeseed and feeder cattle are soaring as bad weather and strong demand in China combine to tighten supplies and trigger food inflation fears.

The rise in prices of these crops could be sustained, warn industry experts. The market is “not going to see food inflation abating in the next 18 months, to two years,” says Richard Feltes, vice-president at broker RJ O’Brien in Chicago.

Yet the surge is unlikely to mirror that of the 2007-08 spike. The cost of wheat and rice, the two most important agricultural commodities for global food security because of their status as a staple for billions of people in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, remains stable thanks in large part to bumper crops over the past few years.

The cost of sugar, an important source of calories in India and other emerging countries, is also down from previous highs.

Instead, the main concern centres on the price of oilseeds, such as soyabeans, rapeseed and canola, and corn.

Oilseeds are not only a source of edible oil for coking and processed food but also the main source of protein-rich feed meal used to fatten cows, sheep, pigs and poultry. Corn is also a crucial source of feed meal. The rise in feed is already pushing up meat costs worldwide, analysts say.

Soyabean prices have risen more than 20 per cent since the start of the year and hit a peak of $15.09 a bushel on Friday, the highest in four years. Commodities traders say they are likely to rise to $16-$17 a bushel, targeting the all-time high of $16.63 set in the summer of 2008. “I am very bullish,” says a senior executive with a leading commodities trading house.

Canola prices hit C$665.90 a tonne last week, their highest since July 2008 and only a fraction below the all-time high set during the 2007-08 food crisis. And rapeseed prices in Europe, at €514 per tonne, are less than 2 per cent below the 2008 peak.

Soya production is sharply down in the Latin American agricultural belt of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay after the La Niña weather phenomenon exposed fields to hot, dry weather, hurting yields. The output drop in the region, which accounts for more than half the world’s exports of the commodity, comes as Chinese imports have increased more than 20 per cent in the first quarter.

Chris Gadd, analyst at Macquarie, says Chinese buyers could afford high dollar-denominated prices thanks to a fall in freight rates and a stronger renminbi.

Moreover, Chinese soya production has dropped as farmers have opted to sow more acres with corn, which is fetching record prices in China.

Commodities traders are more restrained about the outlook for corn prices, but they warn that costs are likely to remain at historically high levels in spite of an expected surge in US production due to unusually high Chinese demand.

Beijing has only been an occasional importer of corn over the past 50 years, with significant overseas purchases over three short periods: 1973-75, 1978-83 and 1994-96. Those sporadic imports have become more common and traders expect China in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 crop season to make its biggest purchases of corn over a two-year period since records began in the 1960s.

Abdolreza Abbassian, senior grains economist at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, anticipates Beijing will buy between 8m and 10m tonnes over the two seasons.

In China, the cost of corn hit an all-time high in March of Rmb2,497 per tonne, up roughly 10 per cent from the beginning of the year, after Beijing said that its inventories were lower than thought. Since then, agricultural traders say Sinograin, the state-owned trading house which manages the state grain reserves, has been in the market buying corn to replenish its strategic stockpile.

Corn prices rose on Monday to $6.58¾ a bushel yesterday after the US government last week said traders had concluded their biggest single-day corn deals since 1991. The market is assuming that the corn is heading to China. During the 2007-08 food crisis, corn rose to $7.65 a bushel.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
Cuban eggs, not cigars, fall ‘foul’ of U.S. Customs

December 23, 2010 11:55 AM ET
MIAMI (Reuters) – A Cuban-American father and daughter face a possible jail term or hefty fines after their attempt to bring 72 unhatched pigeon eggs from Cuba to the United States fell foul of U.S. Customs. | Full Article

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Brazilian group sues over shark killings

BRASILIA, Brazil (UPI) — Asia’s insatiable demand for shark fin soup has led to the illegal killing of nearly 300,000 sharks off Brazil, an environmental group alleges.

The Environmental Justice Institute in Brazil has accused a seafood exporter, Siglo do Brasil Comercio, of illegally killing sharks and is suing for what it calls massive damage to the marine ecosystem, the BBC reported Tuesday.

The group is suing the company for $790 million in damages for its alleged sale of 290,000 sharks since 2009.

Many of the sharks were thrown back into the sea after their fins were taken for clandestine export, the group charges.

“As we can’t put a value on life, we have calculated the impact on the ecosystem,” group director Cristiano Pacheco said.

“We think the shark fins were exported clandestinely, in containers, likely from the ports of Rio Grande do Sul to the Asian market,” he said.

It is illegal to separate shark fins from carcasses in Brazil, but the high value placed by Asian diners on the fins has encouraged the illicit practice, the BBC said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Note-The pic above is not from Brazil but of a legitimate shark hunter in Australia

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Big Narrikup dairy up for sale in WA

RACHEL DONKIN, The West Australian July 21, 2010, 7:13 am

Ravenhill Dairy marketing manager Rhys Ravenhill with some of the milkers at Narrikup.
Danella Bevis / Danella Bevis ©

Thirsty? How about a glass or two of milk? Milking cows a plenty.

Graham and Jan Ravenhill produce eight million litres of the white stuff at their dairy farm at Narrikup, near Mt Barker, which they have decided to put on the market as their three sons forge their own paths in business.

But the couple will leave a little bit of themselves behind when they walk away from the operation.

After setting up at Narrikup with a handful of cows 19 years ago, Ravenhill Dairy now lays claim to being the third-biggest operation in the State, with the 950ha farm’s 1100 cows producing 2.5 per cent of all milk produced in the State (about 320 million litres).

WA accounts for about 170 of the more than 10,000 dairy farms across the country, which together produce enough product to give Australia the title of the world’s second-biggest dairy exporter.

Although about 50 per cent of the milk produced at Ravenhill is exported through the Challenge Dairy Co-operative, the business also has a retail presence, the result of a decision six years ago to establish a processing plant and branch out into branded products.

Ravenhill Dairy milk – the family also tried its hand at yoghurt but it proved less profitable – can now be bought across the counter at most retail outlets in the Albany region.

The Ravenhill name has been linked to milk since 1925, when Graham’s grandfather began a small dairy near Walpole.

But with their three sons ready to head in different directions – Bevan is a dairy farmer in his own right, Ken is focused on cropping and Rhys will pursue interests outside agribusiness – the Ravenhills say they are now looking forward to trying out the ‘nine-to-five’ existence that is so familiar to city folk.

The family declined to discuss the sale price.
Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Soaring cocoa price

to hit chocolate makers

ROWENA MASON & AMANDA SAUNDERS, The West Australian June 8, 2010, 7:05 am

A soaring price for cocoa is expected to make chocolate more expensive.WA News / Robert Duncan ©

A shortage of cocoa is threatening to force prices for chocolate higher.

Cocoa prices are at their highest levels since 1977, mainly because of a plant disease blighting the crops of thousands of cocoa growers in the Ivory Coast, which accounts for almost 40 per cent of the 3.5 million tonnes of cocoa that end up as plastic-packaged chocolate bars and luxury boxes of truffles across the globe.

Swollen-shoot viral disease, heavy rain and poor infrastructure have cut the Ivory Coast’s production by 20,000 tonnes compared with the year before. The crop failures, together with a forecast fifth year in which cocoa demand will outstrip supply, have sent cocoa futures soaring.

In early trading last night, the benchmark contract for cocoa on the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange was at a 33-year high of £2553 a tonne, up from just £600/t only 10 years ago.

Margaret River Chocolate Company co-owner Martin Black said the retailer had felt upward price pressure from suppliers for the past six months, with wholesale prices for cocoa rising 10 to 15 per cent over the period.

“We haven’t let it affect our prices at a retail level and are just hoping that the fluctuations in the markets will pan out again,” he said.

“But if it continues on this upward trend for another few months we will probably have to start reviewing some of our in-store prices.”

The Margaret River Chocolate Company’s main supplier is international cocoa giant Barry Callebaut, which sources about 90 per cent of its product from Africa. However, Mr Black said the biggest issue facing the company was futures trading in cocoa, which had hurt the chocolate industry.

“Most of the cocoa trading done in recent years is not among people who use cocoa, it is speculators and traders seeking a safe haven away from equity markets and property markets,” he said. “It artificially inflates prices for the people who want to buy cocoa to make and sell chocolate.”

One rumour sweeping London last week was that a major trading house had bought a very large position in cocoa for delivery in July, throttling liquidity in the market and driving up prices.

Jenni Blance, an owner of Chokeby Road in Subiaco, said it was possible the price of stock would rise next financial year if suppliers passed on increased costs. She said Lindt had already signalled it was increasing prices for its bars and Chokeby Road would have no choice but to pass on the rise next month.

Mr Black said sales at the Margaret River Chocolate Company, which sells about 100 tonnes of chocolate a year, had held up well over the past two years, despite tougher economic conditions.

“People are acquiring a taste for better-quality chocolate, so we have found even though the market has been tough globally for the last couple of years and the price of sugar and milk are also peaking at the moment, sales are holding up relatively well,” he said.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Friday, February 26th, 2010



The commodity market activity  throughout the world has to keep moving between countries to ensure that all have a share of the global wealth and resources.

There are some who are not ‘pulling their weight whilst others are producing abundantly. These things are like that for different reasons.

Here we will bring them and others, together at a common market place where all can exchange goods and or services or sell for cash to the highest bidder or ready buyer.


Henry Sapiecha