Europe cash cocoa:Butter ratios firm ahead of Christmas season
* Strong demand for butter delivered throughout 2013
* Price differentials for beans firm on technical buying
AMSTERDAM Nov 9 (Reuters) - Price ratios for cocoa butter, a key chocolate ingredient, were firm in Europe's cash cocoa market this week on strong demand ahead of the year-end holiday season, traders said.
Ratios for butter offered for sale for January-March delivery on Friday were 2.0 times nearby London cocoa bean contracts <0#LCC:>, up from 1.90 times London last week and only 1.22 in early July.
"At this time of the year we see strong demand for butter," one trader said. "Plants are working with full capacity to produce enough chocolate for the coming holiday season."
Another cocoa trader said demand for butter delivered throughout 2013 was strong.
Swiss chocolatier Barry Callebaut AG, the world's largest maker of chocolate products which makes chocolate for groups such as Nestle SA and The Hershey Co, expects sluggish growth of the global chocolate market to pick up slightly next year.
ICE March cocoa futures were unchanged on Friday at $2,340 per tonne, steadying after falling more than 2 percent the previous session. Benchmark Liffe March cocoa futures were 6 pounds or 0.4 percent higher at 1,524 pounds per tonne.
Price differentials for good quality Ivory Coast beans for nearby delivery firmed to around 65 pounds ($100) over the London March 2013 cocoa contract against 55 pounds over last week on technical buying, traders said.
"Industry purchases decreased slightly as many players were reluctant to buy, expecting prices to go further down," one beans trader said. "It seems that everything is going smoothly in Ivory Coast, Ghana production is going to be lower compared to last year, but there is still enough cocoa."
Cocoa production from top grower Ivory Coast's October to March main crop will reach around 1.06 million tonnes with disease and cross-border smuggling likely to have little effect on output, Barry Callebaut said on Monday.
Traders said the market will be focused on developments in Ivory Coast where harvesting began in October.
"The market is watching if shipments are leaving Ivory Coast on time. Any sign of delay could push prices up," a bean trader said. ($1 = 0.6262 British pounds) (Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; editing by James Jukwey)