Just a week ago, the first cargo ship left the port of San Pedro laden with cocoa. The chocolate industry can breathe easier again and things, at least related to cocoa, are returning to normal again. That’s good news for cocoa farmers. When the embargo was put in place, the beans already sold to traders simply ended up at the port. But traders quickly stopped purchasing beans from farmers who had few options but to store them at their farm. More enterprising farmers near the Ghanian border smuggled their crop to Ghana to get paid.
After almost six months, the saga of the Ivorian ill-fated election is finally over. Yesterday, April 11, Laurent Gbagbo was arrested and his decade-long reign is over. There is disagreement as to whether he was arrested by the forces supporting Ouattara or by French forces. The French, the UN and Ouattara deny it, the Gbagbo camp asserts it. In either case, there is no doubt that without French intervention, this phase of the conflict would not have come to an end so soon.
As the standoff continues in the Côte d’Ivoire, I thought it’d be good to provide a little background. After all, there’s more to the story than a sore loser–Gbagbo–not wanting to give up his job as president. To get a little deeper, we have to look at how Côte d’Ivoire became the world’s largest cocoa producer.
Ivorian planters were initially slow to embrace cocoa and coffee as export crops, but once they did, they quickly ran up against the power of French planters who severely limited access to labor and other inputs. In response, the Ivorian planters formed the Syndicat Africain Agricole (SAA) in 1944. The SAA was more than an interest group. It was the training ground for a new nationalist planter class. The SAA also formed the basis for the Parti Democratique de Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI). Its leader, Houphouet-Boigny, ruled the country from 1960 until 1993.
First, my apologies for the long silence of this blog. I’ve had a really busy time and blog updates have taken a back seat. But I had to add a post, now that the presidential election in the Côte d’Ivoire has deteriorated into chaos. A quick summary: after five years of delays, the presidential election finally took place on October 31. Initial reports were encouraging, there was little violence and the election seemed to proceed properly. The results let to a runoff election between the two top vote-getters: sitting President Laurent Gbagbo and opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara. The runoff election took place on November 28 and on December 2, the Ivorian Electoral Commission announced that Alassane Ouattare had won the election with 54 percent of the vote.
Ok, folks. I’m a bit late with that information but here are some resources to help you buy more fairtrade products.
Think there’s only fairtrade coffee and chocolate? Think again. Here’s a list of products available with fairtrade certification. Keep an eye out for them at your favorite store.