Cocoa Growers Will Work Together on Strategy to Fight Rout

(Bloomberg) -- Cocoa-growing countries will fight a price rout by banding together and coordinating production strategies, the chairman of the International Cocoa Organization said.

The nations are also planning to promote local consumption of chocolate, the ICCO’s Luis Valverde told reporters Monday in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s commercial capital. He was speaking after an emergency meeting held by members of the group after a dramatic tumble for prices.

"We are in a crisis, in a price crisis," Valverde said. "The last six months have been terrible, and the forecast is even worse."

Cocoa futures in New York have plunged more than 40 percent in the past year amid a worldwide glut caused by bumper harvests in West Africa. While many commodities have been saddled by oversupply in recent years, in markets such as crude oil, producers have been able to stem price losses by agreeing on output cuts. Now, growers of the chocolate ingredient plan on working together on strategy.

“We can no longer make sole decisions,” Valverde said. “We now make decisions as a group."

Hurting Finances

Plummeting prices are hurting the finances of producing nations and incomes for hundreds of thousands small-scale farmers.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top grower, had to reduce the price paid to farmers by 36 percent for the smaller harvest starting this month. The West African nation was also forced to trim its 2017 budget by a 10th, President Alassane Ouattara said last week. Cocoa is the country’s biggest export crop and accounts for about a fifth of the nation’s shipments. The ICCO is this week inaugurating its new headquarters in Ivory Coast after 44 years in London.

"In order to reduce this crisis, we cannot only see and analyze our production," Valverde said. "We need to increase consumption within our countries,” and the market must be more transparent when it comes to demand data, he said.

The Ivory Coast’s stabilization system has proved it is “robust” in dealing with the cocoa price rout, Agriculture Minister Mamadou Sangafowa Coulibaly told reporters on Monday.

Ghana, the world’s No. 2 producer, has lost almost $1 billion in export value because of lower cocoa prices, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, the chief executive officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board, said in a press conference after the ICCO meeting.

In Cameroon, the price decline is affecting 600,000 households that make their living from cocoa, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, the nation’s commerce minister, said.