Much like agricultural markets, soft commodities markets are somewhat predictable when it comes to their respective planting, growing and harvesting seasons. The main difference between the two types of markets, with the exception of orange juice, is that softs are international products. They are grown all over the world and their prices are affected by global supply/demand. In order to lock-in future prices for their crops, farmers trade soft futures as they would agricultural futures. There is also just as much speculative interest for soft contracts, which include cocoa, coffee, cotton, sugar, and frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ).
Cocoa - Cocoa is grown in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Some of the main producers are the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, Brazil, Ecuador and Nigeria. It takes about four years for a coffee tree to grow and bear fruit. The cocoa crop year runs from October to September. Harvesting time of the main crop usually happens in October to September, while the mid-crop is harvested anywhere from May to June.
Coffee - Coffee requires a subtropical climate and five years for a seed to become a fruit bearing tree. Brazil is the world's largest coffee producer, so any weather problems that occur there affect the price internationally. Since coffee is produced and consumed globally, the price can be affected by fluctuations in individual currencies involved in the supply/demand cycle. Also, since it takes a good five years to produce a coffee tree, farmers are less likely to expand or reduce production based on current demand. This has been known to create some long-term price cycles.
Cotton - Almost immediately after the end of the American Civil War, cotton futures and options on futures started trading on the New York Board of Trade (now known as ICE Futures U.S.). Running from August to July, the cotton crop's harvesting time range can vary based on the type of cotton being produced and growing conditions. Since cotton is planted before soybeans, it is more likely that farmers will switch their fields from cotton to soybeans if warranted.
Orange Juice - Frozen concentrated orange Juice futures, commonly known as FCOJ futures, have a long and rich history in the Americas and around the world. The widely consumed drink plays a significant role in the commodities futures markets landscape. FCOJ futures (and options) are employed by end users, producers and speculators to offset or benefit from large orange juice futures price moves.