Ivory Coast Cocoa Farmers Strike as Unsold Beans Pile Up

Some Ivory Coast cocoa farmers started a strike on Monday to protest against a lack of bean sales, adding to questions over how the government will support the industry in the world’s top grower.

Many of the nation’s 800,000 farmers have struggled to sell beans as the Covid-19 crisis stifled confectionery demand and led exporters to slow purchases. That’s prompted growers belonging to three organizations to embark on an indefinite peaceful strike, said Germain Koffi, secretary general of farmers’ group Anaproci, which is part of the protest and says it has about 600,000 members. It wasn’t clear how many are striking.

Farmers are also upset that the farmgate price of 1,000 CFA francs ($1.84) per kilogram isn’t being respected. Yves Kone, the head of the Ivorian regulator, went on national TV on Friday to reassure growers and warn what he called “unscrupulous buyers” against taking advantage of the situation.

“We’re being paid 800 CFA francs and expected to give receipts of 1,000 CFA francs,” Koffi said. “We don’t have the means to store the cocoa and we need the money.”

As well as Anaproci, some farmers from the Synapci and Syneagri groups, which have roughly 80,000 members, are striking. Production has already been paralyzed due to the buildup of unsold beans, and the regulator’s policies are limited, Anaproci President Koffi Kanga said.

Cocoa futures are trading about 7% below a late November peak in London as concerns about slowing demand weighed on prices, though have recovered a bit in recent days amid better-than-expected grinding data for the fourth quarter. Futures edged higher on Monday.

The build-up of unsold beans is the latest setback to hit the cocoa industry in West Africa. Ivory Coast and Ghana late last year accused some international chocolate companies of trying to avoid paying a $400-a-ton premium designed to support farmers by buying supplies through the New York exchange, roiling the market.

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