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First outcomes of the cocoa sector reform in Côte d’Ivoire discussed: Positive on quality but less on processing

Press reports suggest that the quality of cocoa beans from Cte d'Ivoire has already improved as a result of the cocoa sector reform. The percentage of cocoa beans not meeting the required quality standards has been reduced from 50% in 2011/12 to 19% in 2012/13. This is a result of more stringent standards regarding moisture and humidity and improved confidence in the functioning of the market, encouraging growers to complete the fermentation and drying process before sale.

Reports from the Economist Intelligence Unit suggest that the increase in producer prices has resulted in decreased smuggling of beans to Ghana. However, the price of the mid-crop beans (which are smaller than the main crop) has reportedly been set too high. This has reduced the profitability of processing these beans, and has led buyers and processors to stop buying the smaller mid-crop beans at the set price. The government has subsequently lowered the price of mid-crop beans to help clear the market.

According to the news website Jeune Afrique, producers now receive 60% of the CIF (cost, insurance and freight) export price, compared to less than 50% between 2003 and 2011. However, cocoa traders "feel that the price scale defined by the Cocoa and Coffee Board (CCC) underestimates the transport fees between the field and the factory, which reduces operators' margins and implies a 4% additional cost for exporters". This may in part account for why the British trader Armajaro has stopped buying beans from Cte d'Ivoire.

On 2 October 2013, the government Council of Ministers decided to increase the producer price by 3% to FCFA 750. This is well below the price requested by some producer organisations. According to Ecobank, the price increase was necessary to discourage cocoa growers from leaving the sector.

While in the past the government of Cte d'Ivoire sought to encourage increased local processing of cocoa beans, with the aim of increasing local processing from 30 to 50% of the crop, the decision of the CCC to end the long-standing export subsidy first introduced as a temporary measure in 2000 to stimulate investment in domestic processing appears to be having a negative impact on processing activities, "with several processors putting on hold their plans to expand processing capacity".

Meanwhile, cocoa prices reached a new 2-year high in October as a result of expectations of strong growth in cocoa consumption. This followed ICCO projections of "a cocoa production deficit for five successive seasons". Cocoa butter prices have reportedly risen "more than 80% year on year". This is in part linked to a resurgence of growth in demand from the European chocolate industry, with a third-quarter increase in cocoa bean processing in Europe of 4.7%, after renewed growth in the second quarter.