Ivory Coast cocoa quality suffers as merchants blend beans
* Export defaults and high production caused bean glut
* Marketing board has lowered farmer price to spur buying
* Exporters say much of the current supply is unusable
By Ange Aboa
ABIDJAN, April 20 (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. Continued...