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Ivory Coast Cocoa - 2003-03-06


Ivory Coast is the biggest cocoa exporter in the world, producing 40 percent of the cocoa beans used to make chocolate.

One of its main markets is Europe, where chocolate manufacturers have been pleasing the most sophisticated palates for centuries.

But now the war in the Ivory Coast is threatening that industry. Karim Bagaya is one of 400,000 small-scale cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast. But even though his harvest this year is good, Karim is not optimistic.

KARIM BAGAYA, COCOA FARMER (TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH)
"This war is not good. Cocoa can make lots of money, but with the war, it's not paying off."

In five months of conflict, hundreds of people have been killed and about one million displaced. Many cocoa farmers are afraid to return to their fields, and their crops are in danger of rotting. Others who remained can't transport their harvest because the main roads have been blocked.

NATURAL SOUND, COCOA DEALER TALKING

This cocoa dealer says he used to receive up to three shipments of cocoa per day and now it takes him up to three days to get just one. Transportation costs have gone up and cocoa farmers' income has dropped 25 percent.

Economist Philippe Chalmin, who calls cocoa the "raw nerve" of the war, warns of an imminent increase in cocoa prices if rebel forces take control of the two main ports.

PHILIPPE CHALMIN, ECONOMIST (TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH)
"If cocoa can't get to port anymore, if the ports stop working, then the global market will be faced with a stand-still of the Ivorian supply and this will immediately be felt in the prices."

Chalmin says if cocoa prices rise dramatically, food manufacturers might use other ingredients instead of cocoa butter.

In January, Ivory Coast's warring parties reached an agreement in Paris, which paves the way for a coalition government. But it has proven more difficult to implement on the ground. And for chocolate lovers, everywhere, it is hard to imagine that this little square of pleasure has become the bitter symbol of a nation torn apart by war.

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