(Adds milestones, background, details)
NEW YORK, July 18 (Reuters) - North American cocoa grindings rose 3.7% in the second quarter of 2019 from the same period a year earlier, exceeding market expectations, data from the National Confectioners Association (NCA) showed on Thursday.
Companies in the United States, Canada and Mexico reported grinding 123,731 tonnes of cocoa in the quarter, the largest second-quarter figure since 2016. Last year, companies reported grinding 119,301 tonnes during the three-month period.
Market participants had anticipated figures to be flat to slightly higher compared with the second quarter of 2018.
Cocoa grindings reflect demand for chocolate’s key ingredient, and the strong North American figures were a welcome jolt following data from Europe on Tuesday indicating that regional grindings there had dropped 3.2% year-on-year.
Grindings in top producer Ivory Coast, meanwhile, were up 7.3% by the end of June, data from the exporters’ association showed on Wednesday. An increasing share of cocoa is processed in producing countries.
Grinding figures from Asia were due to be published on Friday.
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 G Crosse and Jonathan Oatis)