Undersized cocoa beans hamper Ivorian mid-crop purchases
May 16, 2013
Undersized cocoa beans are hampering purchases of Ivory Coast’s mid-crop harvest, leading some co-operatives to shut down amid violations of the government’s guaranteed minimum price for farmers, exporters and growers said. The West African nation’s marketing board, the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC), set a maximum bean count – the measure of bean size – of 120 beans per 100g for beans exported during the April-to-September mid-crop.
But exporters said the bulk of the beans produced during the early stages of the harvest have not met the CCC’s minimum standards. “Last year during this same period, we were working. But this season we’re on the sidelines,” said a purchasing manager for one bean exporter. “There is a lot of cocoa that won’t be shipped out of the bush because the beans are too small.”
With many exporters suspending purchases, the farmer co-operatives that typically supply them with beans are struggling. “We can no longer work. Many co-operatives have stopped. This week a truck with 35 tonnes we sent to Abidjan was rejected because the beans were too small,” said N’Dri Kouao, a co-operative manager based in Niable, near the border with Ghana. Overall, traders are predicting a bumper mid-crop harvest, and port arrivals are currently outpacing those during the same period last year.
Exporters estimated around 23,000 tonnes of beans were delivered to the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro last week, up from 15,000 tonnes last season. The handful of companies with local processing facilities in Ivory Coast are allowed to buy up to a maximum bean count of 140 beans per 100g, and exporters said they are currently buying the bulk of arrivals. But with few bean exporters active as harvesting picks up, the few buyers still operating have pushed prices down, largely ignoring a guaranteed minimum price for farmers fixed by the CCC as part of a sweeping reform of the sector. Ivory Coast forward sold the bulk of its anticipated 2012/13 cocoa crop in order to set the minimum price, ending more than a decade of liberalisation in an effort to raise farmer incomes and ensure the sector’s future. Reuters