SOFTS-Cocoa falls, raw sugar edges above 2-1/2-year low

(Recasts; updates prices; adds comment, ICE data, NEW YORK dateline) NEW YORK/LONDON, March 29 (Reuters) - Cocoa futures on ICE fell on Thursday, giving up some of the prior session's sharp gains on an improving outlook for mid-crop production in top grower Ivory Coast, while raw sugar futures edged up from the prior session's 2-1/2-year low. Sugar, coffee and cocoa contracts will be closed on Friday. New York-based raw sugar, arabica coffee and cocoa contracts will open later than normal on Monday while London-based white sugar, robusta coffee and cocoa will not reopen until Tuesday.


* May London cocoa settled down 43 pounds, or 2.4 percent, at 1,753 pounds per tonne. It closed March up 11.4 percent, the third straight monthly performance higher for the spot contract.

* This widened the May discount to July <LCCK8-N8> to as much as 29 pounds, the biggest for the contract.

* The market was looking to assess the extent to which recent rains had improved the outlook for the mid-crop in Ivory Coast after a lack of rain from November until March stunted pod development, traders said.

* Ivory Coast is expecting a mid-crop harvest of around 500,000 tonnes with total 2017/18 production estimated at two million tonnes, according to a government spokesman. The mid-crop forecast is higher than earlier projections.

* May New York cocoa settled down $41, or 1.6

percent, at $2,556 per tonne. The spot contract closed March up 14.1 percent, its strongest monthly performance since February 2015.


* May raw sugar settled up 0.14 cent, or 1.2 percent, at 12.35 cents per lb, rebounding after failing to fall below Wednesday's 2-1/2-year low at 12.18 cents.

* The firm currency in Brazil, the world's biggest sugar grower, against the U.S. dollar provided some support, traders said.

* The spot contract closed the month down 8.4 percent on supply glut concerns after India relaxed its rules on sugar exports.

* "Additional sugar is thus likely to reach the amply supplied global market from India in the coming months. No significant price recovery can be expected for the time being, in other words," Commerzbank said in a market note.

* May white sugar settled up $3.40, or 1 percent, at $351.20 per tonne.


* May robusta coffee settled down $4, or 0.2 percent, at $1,725 per tonne.

* Strong exports from top robusta producer Vietnam during the first quarter of 2018 pressured prices, traders said.

* May arabica coffee settled up 0.4 cent, or 0.3

percent, at $1.1815 per lb.

(Reporting by Marcy Nicholson in New York and Nigel Hunt in London; editing by Alexandra Hudson)