Cocoa bean arrivals at ports in Ivory Coast fell this week because of a violent political standoff following a disputed presidential election in the world’s top growing nation, exporters said on Thursday.
The political crisis in the West African nation escalated this week after several opposition leaders who called for a boycott of the Oct. 31 presidential election, rejected President Alassane Ouattara’s victory and formed a parallel government.
The government moved swiftly and placed them under effective house arrest, while a former rebel leader has called for the army to mutiny and join the opposition.
Exporters said the cocoa sector, which had largely been spared, started to feel the impact of the crisis after the vote on Saturday and incidents that followed.
The sector accounts for around 15% of Ivory Coast’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner.
At least 40 people have been killed in violence stirred by the vote that has sparked fears of a repeat of 2010 when a disputed election won by Ouattara led to a brief civil war that killed 3,000 people.
The delivery of cocoa beans to Abidjan and San Pedro ports between Monday and Wednesday was estimated at 29,000 tonnes, compared with the 62,000 tonnes delivered during the same period last week, exporters told Reuters.
Exporters’ data showed that 44,000 tonnes were delivered at ports during the same period last year.
“Yes there is more fear and worry among farmers, and middlemen, and buyers, since this weekend with the heightened political tensions and clashes. No-one is thinking about cocoa now,” said a commercial director of an Abidjan-based cocoa exporter.
Cocoa production activities have slowed in the farming regions, raising concerns that a protracted standoff could weigh on the sector which expects peak harvest and export of the main cocoa crop between November and December.
A San Pedro-based exporter said more cocoa was still in the farms, waiting to be harvested, but if the crisis continues, it could severely impact the quality if farmers are unable to harvest or properly dry the beans.
Virulent hate speech between political rivals has led to intercommunal clashes in communities where farmers from different regions, farm small holdings.
“We’re in the middle of the harvest right now, but we’re afraid to go to the farms because we don’t know what might happen. We prefer to stay at home and wait for things to calm down,” said Gustave Kouame, who owns seven hectares of cocoa.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Ange Aboa, additional reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Barbara Lewis and David Evans)