Ivorian cocoa reform seen urgent, delayed by polls
By Ange Aboa
ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Pressure is mounting on Ivory Coast's authorities to reverse a decade-old liberalisation of the cocoa sector and restore a central oversight body but reform is very unlikely before polls due in November, officials said.
The perception that the liberalisation has benefitted a select few has long fuelled calls for reforms. There have been few concrete steps and repeated delays in elections mean radical change in the top cocoa grower is unlikely for now.
Although the brief 2002-2003 civil war has had little direct impact on cocoa output, the country's politics remain mired in rows over the disarmament of rebels and the holding of long-awaited presidential elections.
"Everyone wants the establishment of a single structure that will look after the marketing and the management and set a fixed price for cocoa during the coming seasons," said a senior exporter who had just attended a conference on cocoa reform.
"If you look carefully, (they want) a return to the stabilisation during the time of the CAISTAB," he added this week, referring to the organisation that oversaw the entire sector until is was disbanded by liberalisation in 1999.
The CAISTAB was replaced by four agencies meant to manage arms of the cocoa industry, enforcing regulation, regulating taxes, marketing beans and helping farmers improve production.
Instead, allegations of corrupt administrators, lack of support for farmers and low prices paid to growers have fuelled criticism and farmer apathy. Senior administrators were arrested last year and an interim body is now running the sector.
Interim managers are due to publish reform plans in August. Continued...