The economic slump has caused a "significant" fall in demand for cocoa in Europe, where declining chocolate sales have hit confectioners, the German Cocoa Trade Association has claimed.

A spokesperson for the association told just-food: "We have seen declining consumer demand feed through to falling cocoa demand as chocolate producers require less cocoa. This has led to a mounting cocoa surplus."

London cocoa futures have risen sharply in recent months, with concerns over insufficient supply driving up the price. However, the German Cocoa Trade Association indicated that falling demand is, in fact, creating stockpiles.

This, the spokesperson said, has caused the price of cocoa being physically delivered to fall, despite its continued high cost on the futures market.

"Consumers are trading down to cheaper chocolate - which has a lower cocoa content. There has also been a drop off in export demand, particularly to CEE," the spokesperson said.

"It is impossible to say how long this will continue, how low demand will fall and how low prices will go. I do expect a stabilisation, but with the economy so poor this is hard to predict."