Ivory Coast ends consultations on cocoa reforms

Thu Oct 13, 2011 2:16pm GMT

By Ange Aboa

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast's government has ended consultations with cocoa exporters and farmers on planned reforms to the sector that will guarantee its hundreds of thousands of smallholders a minimum selling price, officials said on Thursday.

The comprehensive reforms will effectively end a decade of liberalisation that left farmers beholden to the whims of international commodity markets, creating uncertainty that discouraged investment in their plantations.

But exporters, bankers and some farmers involved in discussions, which ended late on Wednesday after just three days, complained that they were too rushed, and some doubted whether their concerns were taken on board.

"We get the feeling they've already decided on everything and so these meetings were just to tell us what they've already resolved to do," said the director of a European export company in Abidjan, who declined to be named.

Finance minister Charles Koffi Diby told Reuters on Tuesday the reforms will be launched by next month.

Exporters worry about a plan to have the government arrange transport and charge them for it, rather than organising it themselves, and they want more clarity on how it will work.

They also say it is unclear who will pay for the running of the regional warehouses that are to be set up for buying and stocking beans, and they fear new quality controls could herald too much state interference.

"They tried to reassure us about our doubts, but they want to move on this as quickly as possible, and I think that's what will happen," the exporter said. "They'll go ahead with an imperfect system then tinker with it as they go along."   Continued...

Cocoa bags in a warehouse in Ivory Coast, September 22, 2008.  REUTERS/Luc Gnago
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