Côte d’Ivoire has suspended its cocoa exports for the 2023-2024 season after heavy rains have hit the country in recent weeks and flooded many farms of the world’s largest cocoa producer, said on Thursday 13 July, the head of the country’s cocoa sector regulator told Reuters.
Cocoa prices are currently at record highs due to concerns over supplies, this halt in sales will be a blow for the country whose brown gold export revenues weigh 40%, according to the United Nations.
Yves Brahima Kone, chief executive of the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC), said sales before the suspension had exceeded one million tonnes. The shutdown will also be a blow to buyers such as big commodity trading houses like Cargill and Olam and chocolate makers like Barry Callebaut, Hershey and Nestlé.
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The main cocoa crop is expected to start flowing into ports from October, said Yves Brahima Kone, adding that production is expected to decline significantly: “We expect much less cocoa in the first part of the main harvest compared to this season. We hope that the production from January to March 2024 will balance our volumes, otherwise it will be a problem. We stopped sales a few days ago because we are not sure we have enough volume to cover demand. »
Supply concerns have driven prices up more than 27% since January. Ivory Coast is in the middle of its rainy season – which runs from April to November. Cocoa cultivation requires abundant rains interspersed with long sunny periods, but Côte d’Ivoire and other major cocoa producers such as Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, which account for around 70% of world production, have also experienced heavy tropical rains in recent weeks.
Several cocoa plantations in the southwestern and southeastern producing regions of Côte d’Ivoire were inundated by torrential rains between May 15 and July 10. On May 15, tropical rains fell continuously for eight hours with unprecedented intensity in the Aboisso region. Farmers, cocoa pod counters and cocoa exporters based in Ivory Coast also expect a significant drop in production during the first part of the main harvest.
“We experienced three days of flooding around May 15, and the situation is not improving as the rains continue, which saturates the plantations”, said Jean Paul Kadjo, who operates a farm in Akressi, a village near Aboisso. Situations that have been observed throughout the “cocoa belt”: in San Pedro, Soubre, Grabo and Tai.
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Brown rot, or black pod disease, a fungus that attacks pods and trees, has started to spread on farms in Aboisso due to prolonged wet conditions, farmers said.
Kouman Kouadio, 43, owner of four hectares of cocoa plantations in the Aboisso region, says many farmers are worried about the threat to their livelihoods: “Almost all the flowers have fallen after the rains, and the rot is spoiling everything else. Although most of the water has drained away, the soil is struggling to absorb it all. »