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Coffee futures climb higher

Arabica coffee futures surged above $US2 per lb for the first time in two years on Wednesday, on heavy investor buying as concern about crop damage from a drought in top grower Brazil continued to fuel the volatile market.

ICE second-month arabica futures vaulted 16.95 cents, or 9.1 per cent, to $US2.0240 per lb, closing above the key psychological $US2 level for the first time since March 5, 2012. The session's steep gains were extended in the final 18 minutes of trade when 12 per cent of the day's volume traded.

Investor buying poured into the volatile market, which saw its biggest monthly gain in nearly 20 years in February, and is by far the strongest 2014 performer on the Thomson Reuters/CoreCommodity CRB Index, pushing it near Monday's two-year high at $US1.9780 per lb.

Christian Wolthers, of Florida-based coffee importer Wolthers Douque, forecast in a morning report that Brazil's upcoming 2014/15 crop would reach 47.7 million 60-kg bags "at best" due to drought damage. He projected that 2015/16 will produce only 40-42 million bags due to lower branch growth and less fruit production.

"When we look at Brazil in the next harvest year (2014/15), we could be in a higher price structure," said Edward Bell, a senior commodities analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)

Arabica coffee prices have surged 77 per cent so far this year, fueled by concerns over the crop impact of the unseasonably dry weather in Brazil.


Weather forecasts were not promising. Though Maryland-based MDA Weather Services called for heavy rains this week in Parana, Sao Paulo and southwestern Minas Gerais, it forecast that drier weather in northern and eastern Minas Gerais, Espirito Santo and Bahia next week will increase dryness there.

Coffee futures markets are carefully tracking Brazilian weather reports and data, gauging the extent of damage to crops.

Second-month Liffe robusta coffee settled down $US12, or 0.6 per cent, at $US2,065 per tonne. The diverging movement lifted arabica's premium over robusta for a fourth straight session to 96 cents per lb, the highest since April 2012.

In sugar, concerns about drought damage in Brazil, also the top grower of the sweetener, helped raise it to a four-month high.

May raw sugar on ICE closed up 0.49 cent, or 2.8 per cent, at 18.23 cents a lb, after touching a four-month peak of 18.28 cents a lb.

"On the charts, there is a potential bull flag building up, and although it is technically in overbought territory, consistent buying on any dip may persuade players that another leg up is imminent," said Nick Penney, a senior trader with broker Sucden Financial Sugar.

Total open interest in raw sugar dropped on Tuesday for the seventh straight session, easing by more than 3,900 lots to 787,953 lots, the lowest since Dec. 4, exchange data showed.

May white sugar futures on Liffe rose $US8.60, or 1.8 per cent, to close at $US485.10 per tonne.

ICE May cocoa futures settled up $US14, or 0.5 per cent, at $US2,970 per tonne, underpinned by expectations of a global deficit and firm demand. May cocoa futures on Liffe rose 5 pounds, or 0.3 per cent, to close at 1,849 pounds.

"The general uptrend is still intact. The funds have been holding onto their longs, a London-based broker said.