Cocoa futures ended 2011 down around 30 per cent on Friday, while sugar dropped more than 20 per cent and coffee also showed a weak performance, after a year of worries over the global economic outlook spilled into the softs complex.
ICE cocoa futures settled firm on the day, in thin holiday dealings, lifted by the firm sterling and higher commodity complex.
ICE March cocoa settled the day up $26 at $2,109 per tonne, closing the year down 30.5 per cent, the spot contract's biggest annual drop in 12 years. It was one of the worst performers on the CRB, pressured by abundant West African supplies.
London May cocoa closed £15 higher at £1,397 a tonne. The second month contract lost 31 per cent of its value during 2011.
"Demand will come back on line in anticipation of the Easter buying season," said Keith Flury, senior soft commodities analyst with Rabobank, adding he expected cocoa prices to move sideways in early 2012, with industry buying kicking in.
Raw sugar futures ended 2011 as one of the weakest performing commodities of the year on the Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, tumbling 27.5 per cent on investor liquidation and increased supplies.
The market scaled a 30-year peak over 36 cents a pound in the spring, but then fell as supplies swelled from top grower/exporter Brazil and No. 2 producer India.
"It seems its fundamentals did an about-face," said The Price Group's senior analyst Jack Scoville. "We've seen one of the big guys go from being an importer to being an exporter of sugar."
India was a major importer of sugar in the 2010-11 season after weak monsoon rains caused damage in its sugar areas. In 2011-12, India could export up to 4 million tonnes of sugar.
"There are so many factors that are so fluid in this market," said Scoville, adding there are question marks about demand for sugar with the wildcard provided by weather in producing countries.
ICE benchmark raw sugar futures closed the day lower on investor selling and book-squaring on the last trading day of 2011, pressured by big crops in the EU, Russia, Ukraine, India and Thailand.
ICE March raw sugar futures inched down 0.21 cent, or 0.9 per cent, to close at 23.30 cents a pound. The fall outstripped forecasts. A Reuters poll of analysts and traders in July produced a median end-year raw sugar price of 24.10 cents.
Speculators increased their net short position in raw sugar futures and options in the week ended December 27 to the biggest in four years, US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed post-market.
Speculators trimmed their net short position in coffee and cocoa.
Liffe March white sugar futures ended an abbreviated pre-holiday session down $2.60 at $602.00 per tonne. London front month white sugar fell 23 per cent in 2011.
"I think sugar prices will go down in the New Year, but the downward correction will be tempered by concerns over the size of the Brazilian crop," said Rabobank's Flury.
Some analysts think Brazil's crop may not be as large as in previous years due to low yields.
Arabica coffee futures on ICE also closed the day higher in holiday-thinned volumes but posted a modest loss for calendar year 2011.
Coffee's fundamentals are bullish going into 2012 due to weather-related problems in major producer Colombia that have led to smaller crop forecasts in the world's top grower of washed arabica beans, dealers said.
"Coffee, with its better fundamentals, is probably attracting a little bit of buying and not warranting any selling here," said Sterling Smith, analyst with Country Hedging in Minnesota.