SOFTS-ICE sugar slips as ample supply weighs
* Sugar remains range bound, surplus weighs
* Arabica seen consolidating around current level
* Cocoa dealers debate Ivory Coast crop size
(Adds quotes, updates prices)
LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Raw sugar edged lower on Wednesday as ample supply kept a lid on prices and the market remained stuck in a tight range.
Arabica coffee slipped, consolidating above last week's two-and-a-half year low, while cocoa prices also eased.
March raw sugar futures on ICE were down 0.04 cent or 0.2 percent to 19.40 cents a lb at 1539 GMT, remaining stuck in its recent trading range of between 19 and 20 cents per lb.
"News concerning the sugar market for the moment is not good so that is keeping the market under pressure, all the signals we have from big sugar producers and exporters are quite bearish and we see strong output again this year," said Romain Lathiere, head of dealing at Diapason Commodities Management.
"Technically speaking we might see a slight rebound in the coming days but that will be short-lived and I think we will see lower levels over the coming weeks and months," he added.
March white sugar on Liffe fell $1.30 or 0.3 percent to $516.80 per tonne.
The International Sugar Organization also said world market prices could remain under pressure until the end of the current October/September crop cycle, reiterating in its monthly report it expects a 2012/13 surplus of 6.18 million tonnes.
IVORY COAST DEBATE
Cocoa prices were near unchanged with dealers noting the lower-than-expected arrivals in Ivory Coast were causing some concern over whether the size of the crop had been overestimated.
"There's a massive argument over the size of the Ivory crop," said a London-based broker.
"People who think the Ivory crop is smaller than expected and is going to tail off quite quickly are obviously quite bullish whereas half the industry thinks it's neutral and there's no real story."
Liffe March cocoa futures were down 2 pounds or 0.1 percent at 1,546 pounds a tonne.
The December premium over March <LCC-1=R> narrowed to 38 pounds after closing at 46 pounds the previous session.
Dealers eyed a wide range of estimates for 2012/13 global cocoa supply and demand, with trade house Olam International Ltd forecasting a deficit in excess of 150,000 tonnes, while U.S. agribusiness company Cargill expects cocoa supply and demand near balanced. 1/8ID: nL5E8MLLEO 3/8
"Even if Ivory Coast's crop is a bit shorter than expected supply and demand is going to be balanced," the broker added.
Cocoa futures on ICE were lower, with March down $12 or 0.5 percent at $2,432 a tonne.
Arabica coffee prices edged lower as dealers noted the large speculative short position which has built up over recent months which could lead to a short covering rally.
March arabica coffee futures were down 0.2 cent or 0.1 percent at $1.4815 per lb, hovering near the two-and-a-half-year low of $1.4710 touched last week.
"I don't see any bullish news that could drive the market on the upside but I think we may have seen the bottom recently," said Diapason's Latheire, adding he expected prices to consolidate around current levels.
In the near term, dealers said there was potential for a short-covering rally, if funds moved to cover the large short position.
"We're a bit friendly to the upside short term," said a London-based broker.
"When it gets above $1.60 people will start covering, but you have to remember Brazil has still got to sell some, which might initially cap any upside."
Top producer Brazil is heading into an off-year in its biennial crop cycle after harvesting a large crop earlier this year.
March robusta coffee futures were unchanged at $1,881 a tonne.
(Additional reporting by Sarah McFarlane; Editing by James Jukwey and Alison Birrane)