Nelly Bassily | March 21, 2011
On March 7, 2011, President Laurent Gbagbo nationalized Ivory Coast’s cocoa and coffee industries. He decreed that only the State is authorized to purchase cocoa and coffee beans from farmers. Gbagbo made the announcement following Alassane Ouattara’s recent ban on cocoa and coffee exports.
In presidential elections in late 2010, Alassane Ouattara was proclaimed the winner. But President Laurent Gbagbo is refusing to leave office. Mr. Ouattara aims to starve Laurent Gbagbo of the funds that are keeping him in power. Côte d’Ivoire produces some 1.2 million tonnes of cocoa annually. The cocoa industry provides around 35% of the government’s revenue. The political wrangling over cocoa are seriously affecting farmers and the national economy.
In practical terms, the cocoa industry in Ivory Coast has come to a standstill. Exporters have left the country and the banks are closed. With an export ban and European sanctions in place, cocoa farmers are without buyers. Cocoa prices have collapsed. Some of the estimated 700,000 small-scale cocoa growers have stopped harvesting their crops.
The only market is illegal cross-border trade. Countries such as Ghana, Togo, Mali and Sierra Leone are benefitting, as Ivorian farmers sell their perishable crop to black market buyers for a fraction of its market value. Millions of people are suffering as their main source of income vanishes.
Podcast (March 17): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00f8z96