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By Ayenat Mersie
NEW YORK, Jan 17 (Reuters) - North American cocoa grindings increased 1.25 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 from a year earlier, a smaller rise than many had predicted, according to data from the National Confectioners Association (NCA) on Thursday.
Companies in Canada, the United States and Mexico reported grinding 117,526 tonnes of cocoa in the three-month period, up 1.25 percent from the fourth quarter of 2017.
That figure falls within the lower range of forecasts, which had varied from an increase of about 1 percent to as much as 4.9 percent.
In the fourth quarter of 2017, grindings had fallen to an eight-year low, prompting many market participants to expect a stronger percentage increase for the 2018 figures.
Cocoa grindings reflect demand for chocolate’s key ingredient, though higher processing in producing countries like Ivory Coast has reduced grinding percentages in consuming countries.
Quarterly grindings in North America grew more modestly than they did in Europe, where they rose 1.6 percent from the same period last year to 359,103 tonnes, the Brussels-based European Cocoa Association said on Wednesday.
The nine companies listed by the NCA as taking part in the North American survey are: 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. (Reporting by Ayenat Mersie, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and David Gregorio)