* Number of reporting plants falls to 17, from 18 yr/yr
* N.American grind drop small compared to Europe
Oct 18 (Reuters) - Quarterly cocoa grind figures, an indicator of demand for the primary ingredient in chocolate, dropped for a third straight quarter in North America, National Confectioners Association (NCA) data showed on Thursday, falling less than expected.
North American cocoa grindings in the third quarter fell 2.19 percent from the third quarter of 2011 to 121,890 tonnes, NCA data showed.
The drop was slightly below analysts' estimates for a decline of 3-10 percent while the number of plants reporting dropped by one.
The aggregate number of plants reporting in Canada, the United States and Mexico fell to 17, or by 5.56 percent, from 18 in the third quarter of 2011, the NCA report showed.
Earlier this week, the European Cocoa Association reported third-quarter cocoa grind in Europe was down sharply for the second straight quarter, dropping 16.2 percent from a year ago to 316,676 tonnes.
Also this week, the Cocoa Association of Asia reported relatively flat grindings at 143,659 tonnes.
Survey respondents in North America included chocolate makers Barry Callebaut USA, Hershey Co, Nestle Chocolate & Confections, ADM Cocoa, The Blommer Chocolate Co. and Mars Chocolate North America.