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May 27, 2008

Peace lowers cocoa smuggling from Ivory Coast to neighbours

Ivory Coast has said considerably less of its home-grown cocoa beans were being smuggled and sold in nearby non-producing countries, mainly since a fragile 2007 peace deal was brokered.

"We have noticed the opposite trend since a peace deal was signed in March 2007," said Michel Yeoun, vice president of the country's top cocoa growers association.He said deploying customs officers and financial institutions in the divided country's rebel-held north helped restrain illegal exports.

Yeoun was optimistic for production growth over the next crop year in the world's top cocoa producer. Output for the first six months of the 2007-2008 crop season reached 1.06 million tonnes, a 10 percent rise on the 976,000 tonnes the previous year.

In July 2006, Ivorian cocoa growers threatened to take neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali to court accusing them of illegally exporting beans. The producer group estimated 300,000 tonnes flowed through these countries each year.

The Abidjan government denounced the actions of unnamed nearby non-producing countries who had taken up exporting cocoa, as "economic crime."

Contraband Ivorian cocoa beans enter Ghana, the world's second biggest grower, bought by the state at guaranteed higher prices.

Ivory Coast has been split into the rebel-held north and the government-administered south, where most cocoa is produced, since 2002 after a failed coup attempt to oust President Laurent Gbagbo.

Cocoa and coffee account for 40 percent of its revenue from exports and 20 percent of its GDP.


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