The suspension of cocoa exports from the Ivory Coast was extended indefinitely on March 28, by Alassane Ouattara, internationally recognized winner of the November election. Outtara is using economic sanctions against political rival Laurent Gbagbo in a bid to make him leave power.
However, Laurent Pipitone director of economics and statistics at ICCO did not express any concerns over global supply problems, explaining that in the current 2010/2011 cocoa year, the ICCO expects a supply surplus of over about 120,000 tonnes (representing about three per cent of annual demand for cocoa).
Pipitone said the “remarkable” increase in cocoa production was due to excellent weather conditions across West Africa, the largest cocoa producing region, and the impact of relatively high cocoa prices in recent years.
“With the weather favouring crop development and attractive prices encouraging better farming maintenance, large harvests are expected, and this could potentially lead to a global all-time record crop,” Pipitone added.
He said despite the halt in Ivory Coast cocoa exports since February, significant volumes of cocoa have been harvested since then and stored at port level or up-country.
Possible storage problems
Pipitone did however say cocoa damage in the Ivory Coast could occur over long storage periods, presenting quality control challenges.
“Although it is easy to preserve the quality during the dry season, the situation gets more difficult as the coming months will be wetter, with May - July corresponding to the main rainy season,” he said.
“Cocoa can be stored for years before its quality deteriorates, as long as the storage conditions follow best known practices. However, if the storage conditions are not adequate, the quality of the cocoa would be expected to suffer,” said Pipitone.
He said the second crop of the season has just started, meaning that significant volumes of cocoa will be harvested from now on.