Ivorian cocoa prices fall, planters abandon farms

Cocoa beans are piling in east Côte d’Ivoire because of an embargo, while plummeting farmgate prices has pushed planters to abandon farms as Ghana reinforced security at its border to end smuggling, farmers said on Friday.

“The amount of smuggling is down. There are a lot of beans just sitting in the hands of the farmers,” said farmer Joseph Amani, who farms in the eastern region of Abengourou.

“For several weeks, the Ghanaian government has reinforced security at the border. It is very difficult to get the cocoa out. Everyone is depressed because we can’t sell,” he said.

A dispute over a November election has plunged the world’s top cocoa producer into violent turmoil, after leader Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down despite results showing he lost.

His rival Alassane Ouattara is recognised by world leaders and Western countries have imposed sanctions on Gbagbo and institutions supporting him, such as the ports and cocoa authority.

Ouattara has imposed a ban on exports until March 15. Both aim to starve Gbagbo’s regime of funds.

Côte d’Ivoire has severed ties with the central bank, sparking a huge liquidity crisis. International banks have closed shop.

In the western region of Gagnoa, farmers and cooperative managers said prices had fallen to between 375 CFA francs to 400 francs per kg as the result of a lack of liquidity, compared with prices of 500 to 700 francs per kg before the crisis.

More violent
As the dispute gets more violent, many farmers in the west and other parts of the country have fled, fearing attacks.

“The price has gone down a lot. The farmers are having to sell at a cut price. There are Lebanese buying as low as 375 CFA francs per kg,” said cooperative manager Francois Badiel.

“The plantations are no longer being tended for lack of money. The workers are not turning up. The social situation is dire,” Badiel said.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, which produce a quarter of Côte d’Ivoire’s national cocoa output, farmers said several farmers were desperate to sell to buyers paying between 300 CFA and 400 CFA francs per kg.

“We don’t live anymore. Life has effectively stopped for us, because we can’t sell our cocoa,” said farmer Attoungbre Kouame, adding that even at the low price, not enough middlemen were buying.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said supply in the bush could be damaged by farmers moving away from growing as rains became abundant and as few buyers were paying around 400 francs per kg.

“We are making major losses this year. There is a lot of cocoa in the bush and it has started to rain. There is a risk the beans will rot,” said farmer Lazare Ake who farms in the outskirts of Soubre. — Reuters

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