The president-elect of the Ivory Coast, Alassane Outtara, yesterday ordered exporters to suspend operations for a month from today in an attempt to cut off funding from rival Laurent Gbagbo, who the UN said lost a presidential election in November.
The Ivory Coast produces nearly 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa according to UN figures, and Outtara hopes the economic fallout from an export ban will pressure Gbabo to step down.
The price of cocoa has risen 13 per cent since the Ivory Coast’s disputed election, and stood at $3263 (£2,025) per tonne last week, according to the International Cocoa Organisation.
The price of cocoa hit a 33-year high of £2,732 a tonne mid-way through last year.
The world’s largest traders were reportedly planning an emergency conference call with industry body the Federation of Cocoa Commerce yesterday to help clarify the trading restrictions.
The FCC and European Cocoa Association said in a joint statement last night that the situation in the Ivory Coast has “created a very testing environment for the cocoa trade” and that it is working with those in the industry to resolve issues arising from the suspension.
“Time, patience and a common sense approach to the difficulties and delays that may arise are required, but most importantly, all those whose interests are impacted should remain calm in order that we sustain no long term damage to Ivorian farming communities and the cocoa industry,” the trade bodies said.
The European Union has tightened its economic sanctions against the Ivory Coast to try and unseat Gbabo, while other West African states have warned that they are prepared to use force to oust Gbabo’s government.
African leaders have also asked Outtara to name a new head of the region’s central bank, in a further attempt to remove Gbabo from power.