June 27 (Bloomberg) -- Ivory Coast farmers smuggled as much as 350,000 metric tons of cocoa into neighboring countries since Oct. 1 in response to an export ban and higher prices, the head of a regional farmers’ cooperative said.
The estimate of 300,000 tons to 350,000 tons is based on truck sightings and reports from other farm groups, Bile Bile, head of the cooperative in the eastern town of Abengourou and vice president of the national cocoa farmers union known as ANAPROCI, said by phone today. The London-based International Cocoa Organization estimates smuggling reached about 100,000 tons, Executive Director Jean-Marc Anga said May 26.
“Unfortunately, there is no way of controlling it and we have no reliable statistics of the amount of cocoa beans in question,” said Eric Koffi, the interim operations director of the National Coffee and Cocoa Management Committee, which regulates the Ivorian industry.
Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, relies on agriculture to provide employment for 68 percent of its labor force, according to the CIA World Factbook. Smuggling cuts tax revenue for the government, which is seeking to stabilize the nation after a civil war erupted following a disputed presidential election in November.
President Alassane Ouattara ordered a cocoa export ban in January to cut off funds to former leader Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to cede power after losing the vote. The ban ended April 15 after Gbagbo was captured. Cocoa deliveries to ports in Ivory Coast jumped 18 percent in the season to June 19, according to a document from the Abidjan-based Bourse du Cafe et du Cacao. Since the start of the season on Oct. 1, deliveries total 1.22 million tons, the data show.
Cocoa fell 22 percent since reaching an eight-month high in March in London trading on forecasts for surplus supply. July- delivery beans rose 16 pounds ($25.57) to 1,885 pounds per ton by 3:22 p.m.
Ivory Coast will reap 1.325 million tons in the 12 months ending in September, 6.7 percent more than a year earlier, the ICCO forecast in March. Ghana’s harvests will rise 31 percent to 825,000 tons, according to the group, whose members account for about 85 percent of global cocoa output.
Ghana’s main-crop harvest reached a record 903,646 tons, the Ghana Cocoa Board said May 30.
“We’ve got an anti-smuggling task force that monitors the borders, ensuring that cocoa is not smuggled out or into the country,” Frank Odame, an assistant to the spokesman for the board, known as Cocobod, said by phone from Accra on June 17. The jump in output was the result of better farming and improved prices paid by the board, he said.
Ivorian farmers get 950 CFA francs ($2.05) a kilogram (2.2 pounds) from Ghanaian buyers and 750 CFA francs from local traders, said Kouassi N’Guessan, the head of a local farmers’ cooperative in the Ivorian border town of Bettie. He estimated the smuggling at about 200 tons a day.
Cocoa from Ivory Coast has also “leaked” into Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, VM Group and ABN Amro Bank NV said in a report in April.
--With assistance from Moses Mozart Dzawu in Accra. Editors: Emily Bowers, Antony Sguazzin, Stuart Wallace.
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