UPDATE 2-Hershey says U.S. cocoa stocks will last 'well into next year'
(Adds ICCO statements, detail on U.S. stocks)
By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK Oct 17 (Reuters) - U.S. chocolate manufacturer Hershey said on Friday that U.S. cocoa stocks are high enough to prevent disruption to supplies well into 2015, playing down concerns that Ebola in West Africa could roil the $12 billion global cocoa market.
More than half of the annual cocoa supply needed for the United States is already in the country, one of the world's top consumers, a company spokesman said in an email to Reuters.
The comments from the maker of Hershey's Kisses, some of the most candid from the industry, came as the global death toll from the disease that has ravaged three West African countries rose and calls for a U.S. travel ban from West Africa grew louder.
Ivory Coast and Ghana, which together produce 60 percent of the world's cocoa beans, have not reported any cases of the deadly Ebola virus, which has killed more than 4,500 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
But concerns are mounting the epidemic may spread across the border, cutting off critical supplies of raw materials from Ivory Coast, which produces 40 percent of global supplies.
Major suppliers have contingency plans in place, which they are prepared to roll out in the event of a supply disruption, one source said.
"Our suppliers have assured us they will be able to continue to supply our cocoa orders without interruption, even if the disease begins to impact the major cocoa-growing countries in the region," a Hershey spokesman said. Continuación...