* Raw sugar May/July spread briefly falls to discount
* Robusta defies strong dollar and rises
* Cocoa trade focused on next week’s grind data (Adds details in paragraph 1, updates prices; adds broker comment, second byline, NEW YORK dateline)
By Marcy Nicholson and David Brough
NEW YORK/LONDON, April 10 (Reuters) - Raw sugar futures on ICE turned up a shade in heavy spread dealings on Friday, while arabica coffee eased under pressure from a firmer dollar and cocoa was weighed down by expectations for weak processing data set for release next week.
Strength in the greenback increases the cost of dollar-denominated commodities for investors holding other currencies.
Raw sugar inched higher in heavy volume dominated by May/July spreading, with support coming from a slow start to Brazil’s cane harvest and talk of tight nearby supplies due to firm demand for cane-based ethanol.
May raw sugar on ICE closed up 0.03 cent, or 0.2 percent, at 12.83 cents a lb, while the May/July spread SB-1=R steadied around a 0.06-cent premium after falling as low as a 0.01-cent discount.
“As Brazil’s cane harvest starts, a lot of cane will be diverted to ethanol production,” said Hamish Smith, commodities analyst with Capital Economics. “We think there is a possibility raw sugar prices could move a little higher.”
Nick Penney, a senior trader with Sucden Financial Sugar, said: ”Reports of a delayed start due to rainy weather are emerging and some Brazilian mills are now only expecting to begin operations at the end of this month.
May white sugar finished up $2, or 0.6 percent, at $365.80 per tonne.
Arabica coffee eased, weighed down by the firmer dollar.
May arabica closed down 2.35 cents, or 1.7 percent, at $1.351 per lb.
Robusta futures ignored the currency pressure as reports of domestic hoarding supported prices. London May robusta coffee ended up $22, or 1.2 percent, at $1,813 per tonne.
Cocoa futures edged up, capped by expectations of soft European and North American grind data, a measure of demand. The data will be released on April 16.
“The mid-crop seems to be coming lower than anticipated and if grindings are more than expected that could lead to the next push higher,” said Hector Galvan, senior market strategist for brokerage RJO Futures in Chicago.
New York May cocoa fell $11, or 0.4 percent, to finish at $2,781 a tonne, while London May cocoa ended down 7 pounds, or 0.4 percent, at 1,940 pounds a tonne. (Editing by David Evans/Ruth Pitchford; editing by Gunna Dickson)