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Brazil cocoa output to recover in 2016/17, industry eyes expansion

| SAO PAULO

SAO PAULO Nov 25 Brazil's new-crop cocoa production is poised for a recovery after a steep fall in the previous season due to drought, according to estimates from an analyst and the main local industry association.

The recovery will lead local processors next year to pare back the large volume of imports that they booked this year to supply the local industry.

According to the AIPC, the association which represents cocoa processors in the country such as Olam, Cargill and Barry Callebaut, Brazil should produce around 200,000 tonnes of cocoa almonds in 2016/17 (Oct-Sept) compared to 150,000 tonnes in the previous season.

Broker and consultancy INTL FCStone sees the new crop at 211,000 tonnes versus 140,000 tonnes previously.

Brazilian cocoa producers usually harvest a first crop from November to February and then a second crop from April to August, although younger plants produce the whole year.

Brazil's cocoa industry has an installed capacity to process 275,000 tonnes, among the five largest processing centers in the world, but usually grinds around 240,000 tonnes.

"Imports for this year are all booked, at around 80,000 tonnes, all from Ghana," AIPC executive director Eduardo Bastos said. The industry should reduce that volume by half next year, according to him.

But Bastos and the local processors would like to see a much larger output.

Brazil was once the world's largest producer, with a peak of 435,000 tonnes in the 1985/86 crop. But the spread of the devastating Witches' Broom fungus killed thousands of trees and reduced average production to below 150,000 in 2000.

Industry and government officials, along with farmers' associations, discussed a plan this week in Brasilia to increase cocoa output to 300,000 tonnes in five years and to 400,000 tonnes in 10 years.

"There is a market rationale behind the plan. We expect a global consumption of 5 million tonnes by 2020. So, we will need 700,000 tonnes more. Someone will have to produce that and Brazil could help," said Bastos.

Expansion would take place mostly in Bahia and in the Amazon state of Para, where cocoa trees are seen as a way to help restore deforested land.

INTL FCStone cocoa analyst Fabio Rezende, however, said it would be difficult for Brazil to resume its past status of large exporter. Despite the plans by the industry and the government, he does not see much response from farmers.

"We see a much more vigorous expansion in other countries in the region, particularly Ecuador and Peru," he said. (Additional reporting by Roberto Samora; Editing by Reese Ewing and Chizu Nomiyama)

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