Ivory Coast cocoa growers step up campaign against chocolate giants

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Millions of small farmers in Ivory Coast and Ghana, which together grow 60% of the world's cacao, live in grinding poverty.
Millions of small farmers in Ivory Coast and Ghana, which together grow 60% of the world's cacao, live in grinding poverty.

Cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast on Thursday escalated a media campaign against multinational chocolate makers, threatening them with a boycott in a dispute over payment.

Four major farmers' organisations, known by their initials FOPCC, ANACACI, APROPAM and FNFPCC, fired a verbal broadside after meeting with Ivory Coast's commodities board, the Coffee Cacao Council (CCC).

"We will boycott the activities of all corporations which oppose the living income differential (LID)", they said, referring to a scheme of premium payments at the heart of the row.

Under the LID, multinationals pay a premium of $400 above market price for each tonne of cacao, the raw material for chocolate.

Millions of small farmers in Ivory Coast and Ghana, which together grow 60% of the world's cacao, live in grinding poverty.

The heads of the four organisations said they were suspending their role in certifying that cacao meets ethical standards of sustainability and child labour -- programmes that are a valuable image boost for chocolate makers in western markets.

They even waved the threat of stopping growing cacao.

"It's a question of survival. We are ready to go right to the very end. We can put our cacao production on hold for a year or two and grow other crops," said Soro Penatirgue, president of the National Association of Ivory Coast Agricultural Cooperatives, or ANACACI.

The show of defiance came three days after unprecedented public allegations against US confectionary titans Mars and Hershey.

The Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa boards accused the two corporations of signing up for the LID but making purchases outside the system to avoid paying the premium - charges that both firms strongly denied.

The head of the CCC, Yves Kone, who attended Thursday's talks in the Ivorian capital Yamoussoukro, gathering around 500 farmers' delegates, sought to ease the angry tone set by the growers.

"We must work together with the corporations," he told AFP.

"I am confident. Even if there is hesitation, I am sure they will accept that growers are paid more."

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