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May 08, 2011

Ivory Coast Resumes Cocoa Exports

by Scott Stearns

Ivory Coast is resuming cocoa exports that were stopped during the political crisis resulting from last year's disputed election.  The country's new president is moving to revive an economy hurt by years of division.

The world's largest cocoa producer is back in business, as 1,700 tons of Ivorian beans are loaded onto a ship in Abidjan before picking up another 7,500 tons of beans at San Pedro.

Cocoa exports stopped in January when the internationally-recognized winner of the country's presidential vote called for a boycott to force the incumbent government to hand over power.

Then-president Laurent Gbagbo vowed to keep those exports going, but cocoa prices spiked to near 30-year highs when domestic traders and foreign buyers were near unanimous in abiding by the ban announced by former prime minister Alassane Ouattara.

With Gbagbo under house arrest, President Ouattara is moving quickly to try to restore Ivory Coast's economy, with cocoa exports as his top priority.

Resumption of the cocoa exports is eased by the fact the political crisis between the rival presidents did not affect the ports of Abidjan or San Pedro.  Idrissa Dosso is the head of operations at Abidjan's port.

Dosso says Ivory Coast's infrastructure was not affected by the crisis, so the port is fully operational.   They are able to receive cargo ships.  The logistics and dockworkers are there.  So there is no problem.

Shipping agent Saydou Traore says that is good news for everyone in the cocoa trade - from growers to dockhands.

Traore says one month ago, all the docks were empty.  Today, there are ships coming in and more behind them.  He says  there is a real resumption of business and that it is a great relief.

Traders say there are nearly half a million tons of Ivorian cocoa waiting for export and that the quality of those beans is still good.   ((