Ivory Coast cocoa quality suffers as merchants blend beans
By Ange Aboa
ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Cocoa exporters and grinders in top producer Ivory Coast are rejecting large volumes of beans because of poor quality as farmers seek to blend leftover main-crop cocoa into new mid-crop arrivals, exporters and merchants said on Thursday.
A wave of defaults by exporters and higher than expected production left a glut of beans rotting in trucks at ports and in warehouses this year as farmers struggled to find buyers for what is the country's leading export product.
Ivory Coast's marketing board, the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC), lowered the price it guarantees for farmers by more than a third to 700 CFA francs ($1.13) per kg at the start of the April to September mid-crop in an attempt to stimulate purchasing.
But exporters and up-country buyers said that, even with the lower price, small bean size and high levels of free fatty acids (FFA) had left much of current supplies unusable.
"We can't buy these beans and certainly can't export them," one Abidjan-based exporter said.
Bean size is determined by what is known as the bean count, which is the number of beans per 100 grams of cocoa. Lower bean counts denote larger bean size.
The maximum authorised bean count set by the CCC for export during the October to March main crop was 105 but was raised to 120 for the mid-crop, which typically produces smaller beans mainly destined for local grinders.
Five exporters and seven merchants told Reuters they were seeing bean counts ranging from 110 to as high as 145, well above the CCC threshold. Continued...