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LONDON: White sugar futures on ICE rose to their highest in nearly four years on Monday, buoyed by physical supply tightness that has spurred interest in the front-month March contract ahead of this week’s expiry.

Cocoa and coffee retreated.

March white sugar, which expires on Friday, was 0.4% up at $477.30 a tonne by 1440 GMT after peaking at $479.70, its highest since April 2017.

Tightness in the physical market linked to a global shortage of shipping containers has pushed the March contract to a wide premium over May as buyers head to the exchange to source supplies.

March raw sugar rose 0.3% to 16.47 cents per lb.

Speculators cut their bullish bet in ICE raw sugar by 6,171 contracts to 149,896 contracts in the week to Feb. 2, data showed.

Broker Marex Spectron said sugar pundits may have been under-estimating consumption for several years, hence current high prices that do not seem otherwise justified by fundamentals.

In other news, Brazil’s Raizen has reached an agreement to buy Biosev, the sugar unit controlled by Louis Dreyfus, in a cash and stock deal, the companies said.

May New York cocoa fell 0.2% to $2,465 a tonne.

Speculators increased a bullish bet in New York cocoa by 1,877 contracts to 12,255 contracts in the week to Feb 2.

Cocoa prices are expected to fall by the end of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s continuing impact on demand, with a large surplus also expected, a Reuters poll showed.

May London cocoa fell 0.6% to 1,661 pounds a tonne.

March arabica coffee was flat at $1.2450 per lb.

Arabica is being held back by rising exchange stocks, but adverse weather in top producer Brazil is expected to hit the upcoming crop.

Speculators raised their long position in arabica coffee futures to 22,827 contracts in the week to Feb. 2.

May robusta coffee dipped 0.1% to $1,358 a tonne.

Top robusta producer Vietnam exported 160,615 tonnes of coffee in January, up 10.2% from a year earlier, data showed.

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