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Ivory Coast Cocoa Beans Pile Up at Farms After Prices Plummeted

Cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast said beans are piling up at the farms or being smuggled to neighboring countries after a civil war left the industry in disarray.

With some buyers too afraid to travel into the interior of the country, most banks still closed, fuel in short supply and warehouses full of beans after the conflict halted shipments, prices offered to farmers have plummeted.

Buyers are offering 350 CFA-franc (79 cents) per kilogram (2.2 pounds), less than half the price in January, when farmers received at least 800 francs, said Koffi Kanga, the head of a farmers’ cooperative in the southwestern town of Gabiadji. Kanga’s cooperative produces 700 metric tons a year.

“Only the farmers who need immediate cash for a funeral or for medical treatment are prepared to sell at that price,” he said by phone today. “We are suffering a lot from the crisis.”

Harvesting of Ivory Coast’s mid-crop, the smaller of two annual crops, began in the first week of April. The mid-crop typically runs through September.

A four-month political crisis that ended with the arrest of former president Laurent Gbagbo on April 11 paralyzed cocoa and coffee exports and almost halted cocoa purchases in the interior of the country. Shipments from the country’s ports have now resumed.

In the east of Ivory Coast cocoa beans are being smuggled to neighboring Ghana, according to Bile Bile, the head of a union of regional farmers’ cooperatives in the town of Abengourou.

“Every day we see between 30 and 40 trucks loaded with cocoa driving straight to Ghana,” he said by phone. “We have had abundant rains and the crop is looking good.”

A cocoa buyer in the central town of Daloa, which produces about a quarter of the country’s annual crop, said beans were piling up at the farms because of a lack of cash.

“The banks are still closed so nobody has money,” Alfred Kouassi said by phone. “But the cocoa is being harvested and waiting to be taken to the ports.”

Cocoa futures in New York climbed 3.6 percent to $3,283 a metric ton by 4:14 p.m. London time. Prices are up 2.9 percent in the past year.

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