ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast plans to stamp out illegal cocoa production from national parks and forest reserves over the next five years to control output better and support a new floor price, officials from the government and its cocoa regulator told Reuters.
The plan will be announced this week at a meeting in Abidjan where officials from Ivory Coast and Ghana will discuss with the industry details of the strategy to establish the floor price, said three officials, who asked not to be named.
The world’s top two producers said last month they will fix a minimum price of $2,600 per tonne free-on-board that chocolate companies must pay from the 2020/21 season if they want to access their more than 60% share of global supply.
However, some industry players have warned the plan could over-stimulate production, particularly in Ivory Coast, leading to a global price crash.
“For us, it’s simple,” said one official with the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC), Ivory Coast’s regulator. “If we can’t control our cocoa production, it will be difficult to stick to and enforce the floor price, because a structural production surplus will drag prices down.”
The new measures - a legal framework for which is due to be approved by parliament soon - will include possible jail time for those caught growing cocoa inside forest reserves and national parks, the officials said.
Between 2000 and 2015, as cocoa output rose from 1.175 million tonnes to 1.8 million tonnes, nearly half of the protected forests managed by the Ivorian agency, SODEFOR - some 740,000 hectares - were destroyed through deforestation.
Around a quarter of Ivory Coast’s current annual production of over 2 million tonnes comes from protected land, the Ministry of Water and Forests estimates.
The government will also expel illegal farmers and destroy their plantations.
“The goal is that all this cocoa grown in the forest reserves and national parks will no longer be available. It must be destroyed. We’re talking 300,000 to 500,000 tonnes each season,” said a second CCC official.
He added that the plan was to eliminate illegally grown cocoa volumes over the next five years.
Two rounds of evictions, in 2013 and 2016, displaced tens of thousands of farmers and their families and were criticised by human rights groups for widespread abuses by government security forces.
The officials said the new strategy will allow for the gradual removal of illegal farmers in order to avoid a negative social impact.
Around 1.3 million people live illegally on SODEFOR managed land, the agency estimates.
Writing by Joe Bavier; editing by David Evans