April 14, 2010 / 10:41 AM / 10 years ago

Ivorian cocoa truckers join fuel price strike

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Cocoa truck drivers in Ivory Coast joined a transport strike in protest against rising fuel prices on Wednesday, the drivers’ association leader said.

Cocoa markets are sensitive to signs of disruption in output from the world’s top grower Ivory Coast, which supplies 40 percent of world demand.

“This morning, everyone, including the trucks which transport merchandise like food and agricultural products, is on strike. The strike is total,” Loceni Diabate, president of the national federation of drivers told Reuters.

“It will continue until the government accepts our principal demand,” he said.

Taxi and bus drivers have progressively stepped up strike action which has brought the commercial centre Abidjan to a standstill since Monday.

Transport unions want the government to commit to slashing the price of diesel and petrol by around 30 percent, arguing that recent price hikes have hurt their livelihood.

Nearly 70 percent of the price of fuel is made up of taxes.

The government announced an offer of a small decrease in the price of fuel on state TV on Tuesday night, but the unions rejected it as less than half of the cut they deem acceptable.

Cocoa arrivals to Ivory Coast’s export ports are already lagging last year, with 881,311 tonnes arriving by March 31 since the start of the season in October, compared to 893,513 in the same period of the previous season.

The director of an export company in Abidjan said the trucker strike could add to supply worries.

“We’re supposed to get one or two trucks of 36 tonnes this morning, but they have not arrived yet,” he said. “It creates some doubts and tensions.”

Reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Tim Cocks; editing by Richard Valdmanis

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