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Ivory Coast Suspends Cocoa Export Contracts for Current Season

FILE — Sylvain N'goran, a cocoa farmer in Ivory Coast, holds beans in his hand, Abidjan, Oct. 24, 2022.

ABOISSO — Authorities in Ivory Coast said the West African nation has stopped selling contracts for cocoa exports for the 2023-24 season following recent weeks of heavy rains battering and flooding farms.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa-producer, has been dealt a blow as prices for the seed are at record levels due to concern over supplies.

The United Nations reports Ivory Coast is reliant on cocoa because it accounts for 40% of its export earnings.

The suspension will also be a blow to buyers, including major commodities trading houses such as Cargill and Olam and chocolate makers like Barry Callebaut, Hershey, and Nestle.

Yves Brahima Kone, director general of the Coffee and Cocoa Council, said sales before the suspension had exceeded one million tons. The total output projected for the current season was 2.2 million tons.

Cocoa outputs are expected to significantly decline, and the main harvest is expected to start flowing into ports for exports from October.

Kone said the CCC stopped cocoa sales.

"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 will help balance our volumes; otherwise, it will be a problem," Kone said.

"We stopped the sales a few days ago because we are not certain of having enough volume to cover the sales," added Kone.

Ivory Coast is in the middle of its April to November rainy season. Cocoa farming requires abundant rains interspersed with long sunny spells.

But Ivory Coast and other major cocoa producers Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon that account for around 70% of global production, have witnessed heavy tropical downpours in recent weeks.

Several cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast's cocoa growing regions in the southwest and southeast were flooded by torrential rains between May 15 and July 10.

Jean Paul Kadjo, an Ivorian cocoa farmer, said flooding began on May 15 “and the situation is not improving because the rains do not stop.”

"Plantations are currently saturated with water," added Kadjo.

Kouman Kouadio, 43, who own four hectares of cocoa plantations in the Aboisso region, said many farmers are worried about the threat to their livelihoods.

"Almost all the flowers fell after the rains, and rot is spoiling everything else. For now, we don't see any upcoming harvest because there is nothing on the trees," Kouadio said.

Ivorian farmers report that although most of the water has receded, the soil is struggling to absorb the rain that fell in recent weeks.