Chocolate

Indebted Ivory Coast Farmers by Ange Aboa of Rueters Africa

Indebted Ivory Coast cocoa farmers unable to prepare for next season

 

By Ange Aboa-Reuters Africa

 

SOUBRE, Ivory Coast Feb 13 (Reuters) - A wave of defaults by cocoa exporters in top producer Ivory Coast has left farmers with unsold beans, indebted and unable to purchase fertiliser and pesticides to prepare their plantations for next season's harvest.

Cocoa has piled up at the ports for weeks and has been left to rot on trees as exporters, having wrongly speculated that world cocoa prices would extend years-long gains, declined to purchase beans to fill unprofitable contracts.

The stocking of beans, often in poor conditions, is already likely to have a negative impact on quality for the current harvest. But the financial pressure on farmers and cooperatives is set to have a knock-on effect for the 2017/18 season which will open in October.

"Right now I'm not interested in buying fertiliser or other products. I don't even have 1,000 francs in my pocket in order to eat, so how could I think of that?" said Ali Diabate, 58, who farms six hectares near the town of Soubre in the southwest.

Of 23 farmers interviewed last week across Ivory Coast's western cocoa heartland, none said they planned to invest in fertiliser or pesticides.

The Ivorian government introduced a forward sales system in 2012 allowing it to set a minimum price for farmers with the primary aim of encouraging growers to reinvest in their plantations.

Farmer incomes had steadily risen in line with world prices. However, as the system has broken down this season causing a glut of cocoa and fewer buyers, many farmers have failed to sell their crops while others have been forced to accept less than the 1,100 CFA francs ($1.79) per kg dictated by the government.

Many farmers are now saddled with debt, and farmer cooperatives, which typically distribute fertiliser and other products to their members, are struggling as well.

All 18 co-op directors interviewed by Reuters said they would be unable to help their members prepare their plantations for next season.

"We don't have any money. We haven't even paid for last year's fertiliser because of this situation and our suppliers won't take credit this year," Germain Kabore, who manages a co-op near the town of Daloa, told Reuters.

Across western Ivory Coast, shops selling fertiliser and pesticides have largely closed due to a lack of customers.

"All the stock I've had from January is still there. I haven't sold a single box or bag of fertiliser. It's all still there. No one is coming to buy," said Mamadou Keita, who runs a shop in the town of Soubre.

($1 = 615.9500 CFA francs) (Writing by Joe Bavier; editing by Jason Neely)

© Thomson Reuters 2017 All rights reserved

Letter to Oprah Winfrey

Hi Oprah,

My name is Ayn Riggs and I am the founder and director of Slave Free Chocolate.  We are a small group of people working as activists to eradicate the use of Worst Forms of Child Labor and Child Slavery in the cocoa industry.

I heard in the news that your 2015 list of the your favorite things is out and one item on the list is the Signature Turtle Basket from Phillips Chocolate in Boston.  As I am sure, on the surface, this is a lovely and tasteful product but it seem strange that on organization of your size that has done so many positive things, would not be aware that the chocolate in this gift basket is tied to the Worst Forms of Child Labor and Child Trafficking and Child Slavery.

It is hard to imagine that you would condone this kind of thing.  So on the outset that you didn't know, I invite you to read through the Slave Free Chocolate website.  

Please feel free to contact us to further discuss how you can help change this terrible situation.

Sincerely,

Ayn Riggs, Director, Slave Free Chocolate, 760-715-4618