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July 19 (Reuters) - North American cocoa grindings fell more than expected in the second quarter of 2018, marking the weakest processing volumes for the April-to-June period in six years, according to data from the National Confectioners Association (NCA) on Thursday.
Companies in Canada, the United States and Mexico reported grinding 119,301 tonnes of cocoa in the three-month period, down 3.11 percent from the second quarter 2017 and the weakest for that period since 2012. However, it was up 0.4 percent from the first quarter, NCA data showed.
This was below expectations that ranged from 1 percent below to 1 percent above the second quarter 2017.
Cocoa grinding reflects demand for chocolate’s key ingredient, though higher processing in producing countries has reduced grinding percentages in consuming countries, with top producer Ivory Coast aiming to increase its grinding to 1 million tonnes by 2022.
The weak North American grinding was a sharp contrast to Europe, where it rose 7.3 percent year-over-year to 356,109 tonnes, the highest for the quarter on records dating back to 1999. This included two companies reporting for the first time for that quarter.
The nine companies listed by the NCA as taking part in the North American survey: Barry Callebaut AG, Blommer Chocolate Co, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate Co, ECOM, Ghirardelli Chocolate Co, Guittard Chocolate Co, Hershey Co, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, and Swiss food group Nestle SA.
In January, Italian chocolate group Ferrero bought Nestle’s U.S. confectionery business. (Reporting by Marcy Nicholson; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)