UPDATE: This has been languishing in the drafts area since July, so apologies if the news is out of date now 🙁
Friday there was big talk around the world after an anonymous person purchase 241,000 tons of cocoa beans. You read that right. Tons. If you ever held a cocoa bean in your hand, you know they are pretty light. If you haven’t, put three coffee beans in your hand and it will feel about the same. So what will someone do with all of those cocoa beans? Who purchased them? Everyone was fairly certain that it wasn’t a big chocolate manufacturer. The mystery continues…
Well, today we find out that it was British financier Anthony Ward who purchased the beans at a price of £658 million. That’s $1,005,950,400. Over a billion dollars worth of cocoa beans. On Friday alone, cocoa prices went up 0.7%. This is the highest cocoa has been since 1977. Cocoa prices were already skyrocketing and many artisan chocolate makers have been worrying about the surge. Would their customers pay? Could they pay?
Anthony Ward, age 50, is personally worth about £36 million and is known to be a lover of fine food and wine. Could he be a chocolate lover too? Or perhaps he’s just a savvy investor. The London Telegraph reported that he owns so much of the cocoa beans that British chocolate bar prices will be seeing a rise. This trade was the largest cocoa bean buy in 14 years. Ward had previously held the position of Chairman of the European Cocoa Association. Over the last ten years, he has accumulated 15% of the world’s cocoa stocks. It is reported that Ward made a similar buy in 2002 when he purchased 204,000 tons of cocoa beans. Two months after the purchase, he sold the beans making a profit of £40 million. How much will he make this time?
The correlation between Ward’s last purchased and this purchase? In 2002, the African producing cocoa countries were experiencing poor harvest and political instability. Today, the harvests have been weak in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Very similar conditions. Cocoa prices have doubled since 2007. What will happen with the prices over the next few months? Chocolate makers busiest time of year is approaching fast. Will only the strong and established survive?
The cocoa beans are expected to be stored in warehouses in The Netherlands, Hamburg, London, Liverpool or Humberside. The latest buy is greater than the equivalent of all of the cocoa beans stored in Europe. I wonder how big these warehouses are that are holding the cocoa beans. I wonder what is in store for their next trip and how much that trip will cost them to get there. Only time will tell.
Annmarie Kostyk, Chocolate Goddess