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Brazil Cocoa Farmers Object to Ivory Coast Imports

FILE - A farmer prepares to collect a cocoa pod at a cocoa farm in Alepe, Ivory Coast December 7, 2020.
FILE - A farmer prepares to collect a cocoa pod at a cocoa farm in Alepe, Ivory Coast December 7, 2020.

Brazilian cocoa farmers are asking the local government to stop the flow of imported cocoa from Ivory Coast, the world's largest producer, saying those imports bring risks to the health of Brazilian plantations.

Brazil's ANPC, an association representing cocoa farmers, said it will try to block or make transportation difficult of a cargo of cocoa from Ivory Coast that is expected to arrive in the Brazilian state of Bahia this weekend, aboard the vessel Pichon.

"Our intention is to prevent that cocoa from being unloaded," ANPC's President Vanuza Barroso told Reuters, adding that farmers are discussing ways to do that or to put roadblocks along the transportation route for the Ivorian cocoa.

The farmers' association claims that the cargoes from the African country could bring insects and weed seeds that are not found in Brazil, such as the Striga weed, and put in risk local cocoa farms.

Brazil, the world's fifth largest chocolate maker, needs to import part of the cocoa that it processes as local production, despite a recovery in recent years, is not enough to supply the industry.

The country usually imports between 20% to 35% of the cocoa it grinds, and Ivory Coast is the worlds largest supplier.

AIPC, an association gathering cocoa processors in Brazil such as Cargill, Olam and Barry Callebaut, disagrees with farmers, saying that Brazil's agriculture ministry has cleared Ivorian cocoa of any problems.

"The imported cocoa has already been through some post-harvesting processing such as drying and fermentation, which eliminates nearly any plague," said AIPC head Anna Paula Losi.

She said the local industry supports the idea of self-sufficiency for Brazil, but said that imports are needed until the country gets to that point.

Brazil was a large cocoa producer in the past, but a fungus disease known as Witches Broom decimated fields in the 1980s. Nowadays, the country accounts for around 5% of global production.