Ivory Coast: cocoa invites itself into the presidential election

Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest cocoa exporter, has opened its cocoa season with great fanfare and good news for producers. Thursday 1er October, the country pledged to increase the guaranteed minimum price for farmers by 21% for the 2020-2021 season. The announcement was made by President Alassane Ouattara in person: “We have decided to increase the price from 825 to 1,000 CFA francs per kilo” (1.52 euros), he declared at the opening. the National Cocoa and Chocolate Days, the annual event that opens the great harvest season, to the applause of planters in the capital, Yamoussoukro.

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Planters, a sacred profession since Houphouët-Boigny

Cocoa is strategic in Côte d’Ivoire: it represents 10% to 15% of GDP, nearly 40% of export earnings and supports five to six million people, or one fifth of the population, according to the World Bank. . In a country with 6.3 million voters, it’s an electorate that counts. And this since the first years of independence. Indeed, planters have always played the role of relay between politicians and the peasant world, thanks to one of them: Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the country’s first president. Very young, he had inherited large family plantations in the heart of the Baoulé region, which made him one of the richest men in West Africa, before practicing medicine for years in the bush. Through him, a whole profession is seen reaching the top of the state. His party, the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) is the heir to the African Agricultural Union created to defend the interests of local producers against the French colonial administration. Since then, cocoa money has been widely distributed according to tacit rules of political, regional and ethnic balance.

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A long way for a fair price for cocoa

The floor price is set once a year and this time its increase comes just a few weeks before the presidential election on October 31. While many wonder about the political significance of such an announcement, it should be noted that this price of 1,000 FCFA per kilo for Côte d’Ivoire, which produces more than 40% of the world’s cocoa, is equivalent to that announced the last week by neighboring Ghana, which produces around 20%. The two countries have been working together since last year in an attempt to support prices in the world market. Together, they succeeded in imposing the “decent income differential” (DRD).

This increase corresponds precisely to the “decent income differential” (DRD), the premium of 400 dollars per tonne (or 224 FCFA per kilo) negotiated with the multinational cocoa and chocolate companies to improve the income of planters from this season, notes an expert in the sector.

“It is necessary but not sufficient for the planters to live decently”, he explains. “It’s just for a living. We would have wanted 1,200 FCFA, ”a planter, N’Dri Kouao, commented to AFP. “It’s progress, but it’s not enough to live on. It would take 1,400 or 1,500 FCFA to get by, ”added the president of the National Agricultural Union for Progress in Côte d’Ivoire, Moussa Koné. “Our common strategy now allows us to better defend the interests of our producers at the international level,” said President Ouattara.

“If Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire stay together, the DRD will always exist,” said Joseph Boahen Aidoo, director of Cocobod, the state body that manages the cocoa sector in Ghana. This amount of 1,000 FCFA is a return to the price of 2015. It then reached 1,100 FCFA in 2016, a record. Prices were then pulled down by the collapse in world prices.

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Valuable voices for the major parties

This sharp rise in the price of cocoa also comes one month before the presidential election, which is being held in a tense political context. Pre-election violence has already left around fifteen dead in August, and the opposition called on the population to “civil disobedience”. The Yamoussoukro ceremony has almost been turned into a political rally for candidate Ouattara who is seeking a controversial third term. “Go everywhere in your villages to announce the good news of President Ouattara’s candidacy.” “The president has done a lot for you, in return you owe him a duty of gratitude,” said Agriculture Minister Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani, eliciting mixed reactions in the audience, applause as well as laughter. “You can count on me,” Alassane Ouattara told the planters, assuring that the price of 1,000 FCFA corresponded to support of 355 billion FCFA (541 million euros) from the state in their favor.

Facing him, Henri Konan Bédié, the leader of the PDCI, also owner of dozens of hectares of plantations around his stronghold of Daoukro, is in Baoulé country as his mentor. The 2020-2021 cocoa harvest is expected to remain at the same high level as last year, at 2.1 million tonnes, according to forecasts by the International Cocoa Organization, if political unrest does not disrupt it.

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Objective: increase the added value of cocoa

Global cocoa consumption, on the other hand, was affected by the coronavirus crisis, pulling market prices down. Not enough to influence the proactive policy of the world’s largest producer, which launched the construction of two new cocoa processing plants at the end of September, in Abidjan, the economic capital, and San Pedro, the large cocoa port in the southwest of the country, with Chinese funding. The objective is to increase its share of added value in the cocoa sector for Côte d’Ivoire which currently only processes a quarter, or 500,000 tonnes, of its annual production of around two million tonnes of beans. cocoa, in cocoa mass for export and manufacture of chocolate.

The authorities’ objective is therefore to increase this capacity to 600,000 tonnes, then to one million tonnes per year in the long term, according to Yves Koné, the director general of the Conseil Café Cacao, the Ivorian public body which manages the sector and which will be the operator of the two factories, the capital of which will be opened to private capital later. Two storage warehouses with a combined capacity of 300,000 tonnes will also be built in the two ports which export all Ivorian cocoa, as well as a training center for cocoa trades in the economic capital.

The construction of these infrastructures, by a Chinese company, is to take two years. The total investment amounts to 216 billion CFA francs (330 million euros), financed by a loan from China, signed in April. “40% of the factories’ production will be destined for the Chinese market,” said Koné.

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