Brazilian Cocoa Market Faces Uncertainties and Price Fluctuations

Cocoa Market

“So far, the rise in prices has impacted the costs for companies, which are purchasing products at much higher prices…”

Anna Paula Losi is the executive president of the Brazilian Association of Cocoa Processing Industries – AIPC. She has a degree in political science from the University of Brasília, with a specialization in State law from Estácio, and an MBA from FGV.

Anna Losi, executive president of AIPC

AgriBrasilis – Why did cocoa prices increase 190% in April?

Anna Losi – The global cocoa market is going through a moment of uncertainty regarding the supply of cocoa beans. The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) is forecasting a deficit for the third consecutive year, and for this next cycle the forecast is of approximately 370 thousand tonnes, which could reach 500 thousand tonnes [of deficit] in a more pessimistic scenario. There are different aspects to this: production in the main markets was impacted by El Niño, in addition to the aging of crops that end up impacting yields.

Cocoa is traded on the London and New York derivatives exchange markets and the price in Brazil is regulated by the NY stock exchange, so what impacts the price on the exchange markets impacts the price here in Brazil. In May, the market showed downward changes, after hitting the US$ 11,000 barrier in April. As there are still many uncertainties, it is not possible to predict what the next few months will be like.

“One of the biggest challenges for a chain that concentrates small farmers is the organization and access to technical assistance”

AgriBrasilis – How have these fluctuations impacted the Brazilian market?

Anna Losi – So far, the rise in prices has impacted the costs for companies, which are purchasing products at much higher prices than last year. For now, we have not yet identified impacts on demand, as the drop in crushing that occurred in the 1Q/2024 was due to the lack of cocoa beans in the Brazilian market, a consequence of the drop in cocoa production in Brazil.

Another important impact is the increased interest of investors in cocoa production in Brazil, which has a great potential for growth in cocoa production, and this has attracted the attention of different players. For some years now, players in government, milling industry, chocolate industry and farmers have been working in partnership to increase production in Brazil, whether through improvements in existing areas, in the south of the State of Bahia, States of Pará, Espírito Santo and Rondônia, investing in technical assistance, renewing areas, improving farming density, or investing in new areas, in what we call non-traditional regions, with a focus on cocoa cultivation to recover degraded areas.

AgriBrasilis – How much of this price increase ends up as profit for the farmers?

Anna Losi – Cocoa farmers in Brazil can sell directly to the industry, to intermediary traders, or they can even export their production. They can also benefit/process their cocoa beans and manufacture chocolate themselves. In the event of commercialization or exportation, the farmer keeps the commercialized value negotiated with the buyer, minus taxes and logistical costs.

AgriBrasilis – What are the main cocoa producing regions in Brazil and the level of technology in these areas?

Anna Losi – There are around 90 thousand cocoa production units in Brazil. Most are small and medium-sized properties. The majority of properties are concentrated in the States of Bahia, Pará, Espírito Santo and Rondônia. However, different States are encouraging cocoa cultivation, such as the States of Mato Grosso, Ceará, São Paulo, Roraima and others.

One of the biggest challenges for a chain that concentrates small farmers is the organization and access to technical assistance. The chain is still not very technological and/or mechanized, and this is a topic under discussion among all players of the cocoa sector.

It is important to highlight that there are different cocoa production models and each one can present a different level of technology: we have the “cabruca” system [a farming approach that combines cocoa trees with native or exotic tree species], other agroforestry systems, and “full sun” [under full sunlight, not under shade], for example.

AgriBrasilis – How is it possible to achieve high profitability per hectare?

Anna Losi – It will depend on the production model and the farming region. The most important thing is to work so that average production is profitable. Today, the average Brazilian yield is very far from reasonable.

Yields will depend on the chosen production model. There is a study by the Arapyaú Institute that presents data on the topic for different production models:

AgriBrasilis – Is the witch’s broom disease still the biggest villain for the cocoa crop? What has changed since the 90s?

Anna Losi – The witch’s broom disease still causes losses of up to 30% for the farmers, but I dare say it is no longer the great villain for cocoa farming. This phase has passed and now the coca chain is looking to the future, constantly seeking to improve yields in traditional areas.

Since the 90s, we have undergone some improvements, such as: better management of the farming areas, with improved plant density, plant renewal and good land management; in addition to the emergence of new cocoa planting areas, recovering degraded areas, with the possibility of more technology in the farming areas and yields above 3 thousand kg per hectare.

AgriBrasilis – Can Brazil become self-sufficient in cocoa production? Why haven’t we reached that level yet?

Anna Losi – Brazil certainly can and will become self-sufficient in the coming years. Since 2018 we have been working in partnership with different players in the cocoa production chain to find solutions to bottlenecks. The CocoaAction Brasil Initiative, sponsored by the milling and chocolate industry, brings together companies, representatives of farmers, governments of cocoa-producing States, the Federal Government, research and innovation entities and the third sector, and has emerged to organize this effort.

Much has already been done. In December of 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture of Brazil launched the Cocoa Innovation Plan, a collective effort led by the Executive Committee of the Cocoa Farming Plan – Ceplac in partnership with various players in the cocoa chain. This plan aims to consolidate Brazil as a global reference for sustainable cocoa, focusing on productive conservation and ensuring the improvement of living and working conditions throughout the chain. One of the goals is to harvest more than 400 thousand tonnes by 2030.



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