“More butter for the cocoa”

A cocoa farmer breaks pods at a plantation near Sinfra, central Côte d'Ivoire, in October 2019.

Raw materials. It’s Christmas for Ivorian cocoa farmers … The good news fell on Thursday 1er October. For the big harvest that is starting, they will receive 1,000 CFA francs (1.52 euros) per kilo of brown beans. A price called “edge of the field”, set as close as possible to the plantations. This represents an increase of 21% compared to the amount paid a year ago, estimated at 825 CFA francs (1.25 euros).

No more butter for the cocoa … The sweet announcement was made by the President of Côte d’Ivoire in person, Alassane Ouattara. And for good reason. Amid tensions, he is seeking a controversial third term in the next presidential election, which expires on 31 October. However, cocoa is strategic in this West African country, contributing to the resources of 5 to 6 million inhabitants, or one fifth of the population, according to the World Bank. And so many voters?

Read also Cocoa: the risky bet of the Ivory Coast and Ghana to impose a floor price

Multinational chocolate companies have gathered around the table to help boost prices. They have undertaken to pay, from 1er October, a “decent income differential” (DRD) of 400 dollars (341 euros) per tonne of cocoa, to the Ivorian government. An initiative supported in France by the Chocolate Syndicate. It also concerns Ghana, knowing that this country is the world’s second largest exporter of brown powder, with 20% of volumes, while Côte d’Ivoire represents 40%. The two countries, which for a time had mentioned the creation of an “OPEC cocoa”, therefore decided this year, to align the price paid to their farmers. Bean bags will no longer play border skips …

The industrialists did Lent

Industrialists, for their part, are scrutinizing the price of cocoa in London. It’s been getting hot and cold since the start of the year. “There were strong concerns this summer with a more severe than usual drought. But the rains have returned ”, explains Patrick Poirrier, president of the Chocolate Union. Finally, the Ivorian pod harvest promises to be without sores or bumps at nearly 2.2 million tonnes. As a result, after heating up in May, the price of cocoa suddenly cooled in July before recovering amid political tensions. It is finally trading at a level close to where it was at the start of the year.

The challenge now is to know what consumers are hungry for in these troubled times of Covid-19. At Easter, the industrialists did Lent. The lockdown killed the egg hunt in the bud. According to the Chocolate Union, sales were down 27% compared to the Easter period in 2019. And after six weeks on the shelves, almost half of the offer remained in stores. However, the confined families packed up tablets and spreads. This need for reassurance has boosted global sales of chocolate confectionery by 11% in the first half of 2020. To continue to attract them, Christmas chocolates are already on the window. Or how to advance the Advent calendar for foodies …

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