Ivory Coast said to lose 125 000 tons of cocoa to theft

Cocoa beans at the biggest chocolate factory in the world where Barry Callebaut is developing a chocolate that not only melts at 55°C, but is also low in calories. (Dominique Faget, AFP)
Cocoa beans at the biggest chocolate factory in the world where Barry Callebaut is developing a chocolate that not only melts at 55°C, but is also low in calories. (Dominique Faget, AFP)

Abidjan - Ivory Coast lost an estimated 125 000 metric tons of cocoa this season through the smuggling of beans to neighbouring countries where farmers and traders are paid better prices, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The industry regulator of the cocoa producer estimates that the country lost as much as 100 000 tons through its eastern border with Ghana and another 25 000 tons through the western boundary with Liberia and Guinea, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

One of the biggest cocoa buyers in the country made a similar forecast, said a second person.

The estimates were calculated by subtracting the border regions’ port deliveries from the average of previous harvests. The total is the equivalent of 9.2% of arrivals since the beginning of the season in October through February 25, according to government data.

Mariam Dagnogo, a spokesperson for Le Conseil du Cafe-Cacao, the regulator, didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

Ivory Coast is struggling to contain cocoa smuggling this season after the country lowered the minimum price for farmers by more than a third to the equivalent of $1 314 per ton as international contract prices declined. The change opened an unusual payment gap with Ghana, the second largest cocoa producer, which left its minimum producer price unchanged at the equivalent of $1 700 per ton.

The government and regulator will review border security ahead of the smallerof the two annual harvests which begins in April, said one of the people.

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