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Ivory Coast Cocoa Farmers Disagree on Strike End

Most cocoa farmers in the world's biggest producer, Ivory Coast, have suspended a strike over low prices. But some producers are refusing to stop until the government meets their demands.

After three days in which warehouses in Ivory Coast's two ports, Abidjan and San Pedro, received no new cocoa beans, the main farmers union, Anaproci, agreed to give the government time to respond to its demands.

Others, in the cocoa-rich San Pedro area, say they are keeping up the strike.

Their main demand is the price planters get for their beans. While the current price is set by the regulatory body at about 75 cents per kilogram, they are asking for $1.15 per kilogram of beans.

Farmers of the bean used to make chocolate, want export taxes to be dropped, so more of the revenue reaches them.

The Anaproci union's Germain Koffi Yao says the government is taking the strike action seriously. He says they stopped because the authorities want us to negotiate with Ivory Coast's president directly, and hopefully find a solution.

But Joseph Yao Kouame from a smaller union, Sapicoci, told VOA by mobile phone they had received strike orders from Anaproci and they will continue to strike.

Anaproci says this is not a split, but that they are in their right to continue the strike, though the union has officially suspended it until Wednesday.

Anaproci's Yao, a planter, says if the government does not heed the union demands by then, the producers will take further action. He says, if nothing is done, they will take to the streets and not a single coca bean will leave Ivory Coast. That, he says, will be too much for the government to handle.

Growers say they have been suffering since the cocoa sector was privatized in 2000. Government mandated prices were replaced by an indicative price, which indicates how much buyers are to pay. This price is rarely actually met.

Strikes are rare in Ivory Coast's cocoa sector, the last one being two years ago. Anaproci says this one is serious and will continue until the government carries out its demands.

Cocoa is Ivory Coast's biggest export, and it supplies 40 percent of the world's output.