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Cocoa producers caught up in Ivory Coast threats

EU sanctions mean cocoa beans can’t be exported to their markets, but Ivory Coast’s cocoa board is now threatening to seize what isn’t exported.

Cocoa growers protest an export ban by burning sacks of cocoa beans in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in mid-February 2010.
Cocoa growers protest an export ban by burning sacks of cocoa beans in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in mid-February 2010.
Image: AP Photo/Emanuel Ekra

THE IVORY COAST’S COCOA board has threatened it will seize some of the $1.5bn worth of cocoa beans ready for export if it is not exported by the end of the month.

Violence erupted in the Ivory Coast following the recent presidential elections, when incumbent Laurent Gbagbo claimed victory despite the country’s electoral commission announcing opposition leader Alassane Ouattara the winner.

The EU subsequently imposed sanctions on the African nation, in an effort to force Gbagbo to step down. The country is the world’s main cocoa producer.

The cocoa board’s ultimatum means cocoa producers face the choice of either breaking the EU’s sanctions against doing business with Gbagbo, or having the beans seized. European ships are banned from docking at the country’s ports.

Gilbert Ano, president of the cocoa board, said that if the state’s projected $138m tax revenue from the cocoa was not received by the end of the month, it would seize the equivalent amount in cocoa. The board estimates that up to one-third of the latest harvest is waiting at ports.

The Obama administration said the threat “amounts to theft” and is part of Gbagbo’s desperate campaign “to cling to power”.

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The regional central bank headquartered in Senegal has frozen Gbagbo’s access to state accounts, which Médecins san Frontieres (MSF) says has resulted in severe supply shortages in hospitals.

- Includes reporting from the AP

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