January 28, 2011 / 2:02 PM / in 7 years

Ivorian cocoa arrivals up, set to fall on ban

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Cocoa arrivals in Ivory Coast were up 13 percent from last year’s levels as of January 23, according to official figures seen by Reuters for the period just before presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara declared an export ban.

<p>Men grade cocoa beans in a warehouse in Gonate, western Ivory Coast, September 22, 2008. REUTERS/Luc Gnago</p>

For the most recent week, data from the Bourse du Cafe et Cacao (BCC) for January 17-23 showed 62,209 tonnes of beans were declared at the ports, up from 32,923 tonnes in the same week of the 2009/2010 season.

But industry sources say registration of beans for export have dried up since Ouattara, in a power struggle with incumbent Laurent Gbagbo after a disputed November 28 poll, declared that he regarded any export registrations after January 24 as illegal.

“Boats are arriving to load (beans) but these are the beans that were already registered before January 24,” the head of a San Pedro-based cocoa exporting firm said.

The ban does not forbid the buying of cocoa in-country, and cocoa has continued to arrive at ports, but volumes are falling as exporters are not registering beans for export.

As a result, they are running out of warehouse space and two exporters said the shortage of financing meant new purchases were also winding down.

“I don’t think volumes (or purchases) will fall that much this week ... but after that it will be much less,” said another exporter, who asked not to be named.

ICE cocoa futures slipped lower on profit-taking, below their one-year top, as traders said prices were overextended after a nine-day rally on the back of the ban.

Ouattara was named winner of a November 28 presidential election in United Nations-certified results before a pro-Gbagbo legal body overturned the figures, alleging fraud.

Gbagbo, who retains the loyalty of the military and controls most institutions, including the port and the treasury, has rejected calls for him to step down.

Regional powers have threatened to oust Gbagbo by force but any intervention is seen some way off. The cocoa export ban is part of a broader campaign to cut off Gbagbo’s access to funds, and therefore force him from power.

The European Union has placed sanctions on his allies and institutions seen to be supporting him while regional leaders are seeking to block his access to Ivory Coast’s accounts at the West African central bank, the BCEAO.

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