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Good news for choc lovers as Ivory Coast violence eases

15 April 2011

Pressure on retailers to increase chocolate prices has been lifted this week after violence in top cocoa producer Ivory Coast eased, says The Public Ledger, a leading news, analysis and information source for the global commodities market

According to the country’s new government, Ivory Coast will resume cocoa shipments next week after a two-month long export ban, although some industry players have warned that the country could struggle in bringing things back to normality.

Economic activity in the country had been frozen since late January after a bloody power struggle that ended with the arrest on Monday of Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to step down after losing a November election.

"Port activity will start this week and we expect the first boats to arrive starting next week, with exports proceeding normally," said Patrick Achi, spokesperson for president Alassane Ouattara.

However, one Switzerland-based cocoa trader said Ivory Coast is far from returning to normal. “Of course we’ll start shipping again but timeframe is difficult,” he said. “We’re not past all that yet, in my view. There’s still some (more violence) to be expected.”

Some believe up to 500,000 tonnes of cocoa is currently sitting in storage at ports in Abidjan and San Pedro. One of the main concerns now is how much of this cocoa has been damaged.

A second cocoa trader, based in the Netherlands, said: “The question is whether the 450,000/470,000 tonnes of cocoa, which were not shipped due to the war situation, are still in good shape. There are quite contradictory reports about that. Some say ‘it’s excellent, no worries’ and others say there might be some mould in it. We have no real solid reports on it yet.”

He added that the amount of damaged cocoa will become known in no more than three weeks. “Normally in a week they can ship something like 100,000 tonnes of cocoa. It will take a couple of days before everybody’s back behind the desk and behind the machines. I presume that in a couple of weeks we will have a reasonable assessment of what the situation looks like.”

Ivory Coast’s cocoa mid-crop should beat last year's because of good weather and the end of violence due to a disputed presidential election should persuade growers to return for the harvest, farmers said.

Ivory Coast is “potentially a great country for cocoa”, the Dutch trader commented. “But what we’ve seen in recent months is of course a huge disappointment for everybody, and a disaster for the cocoa farmers. Let’s hope they come back quickly, resume their normal work and are able to make some money again,” he concluded.


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