You might not think of plants growing in distant lands when you’re wooing your valentine, but farmers are likely thinking of you. The cacao tree is a robust crop for the Ivory Coast and Ghana. So strong that together, they produce about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa. And we like cocoa: It’s a necessary ingredient for one of Americans’ favorite sweets. Chocolate, much like coffee, tends to be produced by developing countries and consumed by wealthier ones. Both the Ivory Coast and Ghana raised their prices near the end of last year to address poverty among farmers. Chocolate, made from cocoa, sugar and sometimes milk, is bought more in February than most other months.
Valentine’s Day is also historically a big revenue draw for restaurants, but that may change this year because of COVID. Still, the tradition of gifting chocolate to your sweetheart might remain healthy since it can be enjoyed while socially distancing. So how will restaurants and the cocoa market fare this Valentine’s Day? Stay tuned. As of Friday at noon, cocoa for March delivery traded at $2,435 per tonne, March sugar traded at 16.35 cents per pound and March milk changed hands at 16.75 cents per pound.
Baby It’s Cold Outside
No single factor determines natural gas prices more than temperature. And the Midwest and East Coast got hit with an arctic blast as the jet stream shifted south. Gas for March delivery spiked up to $3.04 on Thursday, barely missing the previous high of $3.05. Heating oil, too, rose in demand but is still declining in popularity overall, much like coal and wood have been replaced with natural gas.
Demand for other commodities also impacted by temperature includes coffee, cotton, wool and lumber. On the production side, weather can threaten livestock, especially cattle, which are kept and transported outdoors. Like all mammals, cattle burn calories staying warm, and therefore gain less weight in frigid conditions.
Winter wheat — now in its dormant stage — could be threatened by temperature swings that can occur during winter and early spring. Rapid thawing and refreezing can shear tender sprouts and dramatically reduce yield.
As of midday Friday, March natural gas traded at $2.88 per million BTUs, about the same as last Friday’s close, whereas heating oil sold at $1.75 per gallon, up about three cents from last week.