Ivory Coast President Aims to Boost Cocoa Market Share

Ivory Coast, the world’s largest-producer of cocoa, aims to increase its share of the world market to 50 percent as the West African country recovers from a civil war.

Reform of the cocoa industry “will be implemented in the next month or two,” President Alassane Ouattara said in an interview today in New York. “We will liberalize the whole chain” and attract investment so that cocoa is processed in the country, he said.

The country produces about one-third of global cocoa output. World prices for the commodity shot up to a 32-year high during the four months of violence between Ouattara and those loyal to his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo ruled Ivory Coast for a decade and refused to cede power after losing the presidency in a November election.

Damage to the economy caused by the impasse forced Ivory Coast to ask for a reassessment of $2.3 billion of Eurobonds after it missed two coupon payments on the debt in January and June. The International Monetary Fund is considering a $614 million loan for Ivory Coast under the lender’s extended-credit facility program, the Fund said on Sept. 15.

To restore investor confidence, Ouattara, an economist and a former deputy managing director at the IMF, hopes that the country will resume making payments on debt obligations next year as the economy improves, he said.

Restructuring Debt

The country’s economy is expected to expand 8 percent to 9 percent next year, after contracting 5 percent this year, the IMF said on Sept. 15. The government has restructured short-term bills into longer-term bonds after the previous government issued up to $1.2 billion in short-term Treasury bills maturing in three and six months, Ouattara said.

The government wants to increase the share growers get from cocoa prices. Currently, producers receive about 35 percent to 40 percent and the goal is to take that to “50 percent to 60 percent,” as part of the reconstruction efforts, he said.

“Farmers should get the fair share of what they produce,” Ouattara said.

Reforms in the cocoa industry would aim to eliminate some of the current layers of intermediaries between growers and exporters, he said, without elaborating.

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