Ivorian Cocoa Year Off to a Rocky Start

Grading Cocoa Beans -- Photo: Reuters/Luc Gnago

The 2009/10 cocoa year got off to a rocky start in the Côte d’Ivoire. Barely a couple of weeks into the new season, the Organization of Agricultural Producers, a union representing about a third of all cocoa cooperatives, launched a strike in protest against lacking government support. The overt reason seems to be surge in world market prices to over $3,300/ton that has not translated into higher prices for farmers.

According to another Reuters report, farmers have stopped some trucks from reaching the export facilities in the port of San Pedro and Bloomberg reports picketers outside the Senate building in Abidjan.

The Ivorian government has announced a decrease in taxes for the current cocoa year, but the farmers claim that taxes are still too high and discourage production. The farmers also demand a resumption of the subsidies that were discontinued when the old cocoa bureaucracy was abolished last season and replaced with the current management committee. Finally, the farmers complained about the failure to deliver and distribute pesticides in time to secure a decent harvest.

After a meeting with the management committee and the National Council of Elders, the coops decided last Wednesday to suspend their protest and wait for actions.

During the cocoa year that just ended, the Côte d’Ivoire recorded its worst output in five years and many predict the current year to be even worse. Much of the decline is due to non-existing investment into the cocoa sector by a government that has been in limbo ever since the end of the civil war in 2003. The election scheduled for next month might put an end to such indecision.

In the meantime, deliveries to the port in San Pedro are well ahead of the deliveries during the same period last year.

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