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November 02, 2009

Ivory Coast unions suspend cocoa-industry strikes

by Monica Mark

Labor unions in Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, cancelled plans to start a nationwide cocoa-industry strike on November 2 and will instead hold them later, a spokesman said.

The unions, which represent 35 different cooperatives, had threatened to shut down the transport and delivery of beans to ports and warehouses across the West African country as they demanded higher prices and more state financing for growers.

“Coffee and cocoa production is disappearing from the hands of the cooperatives,” Moussa Soumharo, the spokesman of the United Unions for Agricultural Producers, said by phone from the main city, Abidjan. “We need to resolve this, but the timing for a strike has to be right. The union is in talks with government officials, and further strikes can absolutely be expected.”

Farmers are frustrated that a raft of new regulations for the cocoa industry following pressure from the World Bank has yet to benefit them. The unions want the government to guarantee farm gate prices they receive for their beans, and are calling for the official representative of cocoa growers, the Council of Wisemen, to be dissolved because some of its members are seen as political appointments.

Ivory Coast, which accounts for about 40 percent of global output, may see cocoa production decline by as much as 15 percent in the new season because of a lack of investment by impoverished farmers and delayed government programs to distribute pesticides, according to shippers. Ageing trees and diseases including black pod rot are also curtailing output.

Bloomberg

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