Interview: Françoise Mariame Koné Bédié
How will the cocoa price agreement between Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana affect the industry?
FRANÇOISE MARIAME KONÉ BÉDIÉ: All stakeholders involved in cocoa production and the cocoa industry are aware that this agreement was established primarily to improve the income of farmers. Cocoa consumption is becoming increasingly important, and Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana together provide more than 60% of the world‘s production. It is difficult to maintain this level of output if farmers are discouraged by low incomes. Therefore, what is at stake, not only in Côte d’Ivoire but across the world, is the sustainability of cocoa production.
The agreement made it possible to improve the income of the producers significantly, and to guarantee the sustainability of production in a place where cocoa is of high quality, which is well appreciated by the industry. It is important for production in these two countries to be at full capacity, and this agreement reassures stakeholders that if the producers are paid correctly, they will continue to produce cocoa efficiently and professionally. The agreement, which will be put in place in October 2020, has already been a success, given the promising sales recorded by the Coffee and Cocoa Council of Côte d’Ivoire and the Ghana Cocoa Board.
In what ways can the government and the private sector promote local cocoa processing?
BÉDIÉ: The Ivorian government is focused on the growth of the cocoa processing segment, and proposed an agreement to offer tax benefits through the establishment of a differentiated Customs law. This means that higher levels of production are rewarded with lower Customs duties. This initiative encourages cocoa companies to increase local processing of cocoa beans. However, this can be further strengthened by also encouraging local cocoa shredders who make semi-processed products. Moreover, the government could offer further support to manufacturers that are selling finished products such as chocolate to increase their activity by becoming involved in the local consumer market. Other potential measures to promote the processing industry include an increase in cocoa consumption and the development of a sub-regional market. Innovative ways of using cocoa should receive full state funding or donor subsidies in order to encourage the development of new ideas on an industrial scale. Once the local and regional markets are more advanced, we will need to develop new ideas to enhance the potential of the cocoa market.
What can be done to ensure the sustainable growth of Côte d’Ivoire’s agriculture sector?
BÉDIÉ: Côte d’Ivoire has been affected by the destruction of its forests due to, among other industries, cocoa cultivation. In order to maintain growth it is necessary to leverage the productivity rate because most cocoa plantations are located on small plots of land with low yields. One proposed measure to promote the growth of the agriculture sector and the protection of the environment is to replant several types of trees in the same place through agro-forestry plantations.
The increase in productivity and yields is the main reason that the production of cocoa is currently around 500 kg per ha, but this could easily be doubled or tripled, which would transform the sector. This can be achieved when the government completes the census of farmers and is able to give precise directives to coffee and cocoa producers in terms of their performance and ways to increase output. If planters are able to produce more and yields improve, it will reduce the overall amount of land required, especially in protected areas. We could then reforest this land because producers will be able to maintain the same level of productivity and income, or even see an increase, through improved performance.
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