SOFTS-ICE sugar, coffee eases, consolidates near lows
* Third consecutive world sugar surplus weighs
* Index reweighting should support arabica price
(Adds details, quotes, updates prices)
LONDON, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Raw sugar and arabica coffee futures on ICE were slightly weaker on Wednesday with both markets hovering above recent 2-1/2 year lows weighed by surplus supplies.
Cocoa futures on Liffe were firm as dealers anticipated a small delivery against the December contract which expired this session.
Raw sugar hovered above key support at last month's low for the front month of 18.66 cents a lb, with producers showing little sign of selling aggressively at current depressed levels, while importers were also sitting back after the recent slide.
"I can't see any rush on the importers side to purchase as apart from Indonesia all the other big importers are well covered," said Sergey Gudoshnikov, a senior economist with the London-based International Sugar Organization.
"Middle Eastern and North African countries will keep buying but they are relatively smaller importers."
March raw sugar futures on ICE were off 0.12 cent or 0.6 percent to 18.76 cents a lb at 1320 GMT.
"A continued drift downward in prices would not be surprising considering we're in the third year of surplus," said the ISO's Gudoshnikov.
Dealers and analysts noted that some importing countries have recently taken measures to protect their domestic markets.
"Egypt and Vietnam have introduced import duties to avoid buying cheap sugar and Pakistan is talking about introducing a subsidy on exports," Gudoshnikov added.
March white sugar on Liffe fell $2.80 or 0.6 percent to $505.40 per tonne.
March arabica coffee futures eased 1.5 cent or 1 percent at $1.48 per lb, after falling last week to $1.4635, the lowest level since June 2010.
Dealers said the adding of positions to arabica coffee by indexes in their annual reweighting was supportive of prices, although it was unclear whether any rally triggered by the index buying could be sustained, given the bearish fundamentals which have helped push the market to its recent low.
"There's a massive index reweight and the funds are very short - the question is whether the index reweight is going to trigger a proper short covering rally or if the balance sheet is so negative that the market isn't going anywhere," said James Hearn, joint head of agriculture at Marex Spectron.
March robusta coffee futures were off $10 or 0.5 percent at $1,894 a tonne.
In cocoa, dealers eyed the expiry of Liffe's December contract which went off the board at around level money with March after trading at a premium as wide as over 80 pounds last week <LCC-1=R>.
March cocoa futures on Liffe were up 14 pounds or 0.9 percent at 1,533 pounds a tonne.
Barry Callebaut AG sees modest growth in the global chocolate market in the year to August 2013, with demand from Asia likely to offset a sluggish European market, the chief executive of the world's largest maker of chocolate products said on Wednesday.
The world's largest chocolate maker said on Wednesday it would buy the cocoa ingredients business of Singapore-based Petra Foods for $950 million in cash.
March cocoa on ICE rose $38 or 1.6 percent to $2,418 a tonne.
(Editing by Alison Birrane)