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Agro-processing News South Africa

Ivory Coast moves to cut out middlemen in cocoa sector reform

Ivory Coast's cocoa regulatory body is planning to overhaul the domestic cocoa marketing system within a year, aiming to eliminate middlemen in the hinterland who play roles as scouts and buyers, sourcing cocoa beans from farms and reselling them to exporters, according to an official and sources briefed by Reuters.
Farmers work at a cocoa farm in Daloa, Ivory Coast Oct. 3, 2023. REUTERS/Ange Aboa/File Photo
Farmers work at a cocoa farm in Daloa, Ivory Coast Oct. 3, 2023. REUTERS/Ange Aboa/File Photo

According to the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) regulator, independent intermediary buyers represent around 80% of the volumes purchased from farms and delivered in the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro, while cooperatives account for around 20% of volumes in the world's top cocoa producing nation.

Embracing traceability

The reform will rely on Ivory Coast's new cocoa traceability and certification system that is being deployed by the CCC, and will be operational by October at the start of the 2024/25 cocoa season.

The system will digitise payment for all cocoa bean sales or purchase transactions from the farmer to the exporter.

"The intermediaries who collect the product to resell to other intermediaries will disappear because they will not benefit from this system," Arsene Dadie, director of domestic marketing at the CCC, who is leading the reform, told Reuters.

Dadie said the new system based on the farmer's identification cards, which also serve as payment cards, will essentially rely on cocoa cooperatives that will be the only intermediaries between exporters and farmers.

Strengthening cooperatives

The CCC has identified 1.05 million cocoa farmers and issued around 900,000 cards of which around 800,000 have been distributed. The regulator has said that 580 out of nearly 2,000 cooperatives are participating in a test deployment of the new sales system, as well as 22 exporters out of 100.

"At the same time as we distribute the cards, we are gradually rolling out the traceability system among the cooperatives," Dadie said, adding that the system will ensure that farmers are paid directly without any intermediary from the next cocoa season.

The CCC also aims to exclude intermediary scouts and buyers by reducing the number of permits issued to them and introducing more restrictions which will eliminate those who fail to comply.

"We have already identified all those who are responsible for the current overpayments, they will be excluded from the permits. We'll also introduce severe measures including limiting the number of permits to better control them," a source at the CCC with knowledge of the planned reform said, requesting anonymity to speak candidly.

Supply chain challenges

According to the CCC, around 40,000 metric tonnes of beans are being hoarded in farm warehouses by independent intermediary buyers who are delaying deliveries to ports, demanding up to 1,800 CFA franc ($2.96) per kilo for deliveries compared with the official farmgate price of 1,500 CFA franc.

This has slowed down supply to exporters, forcing the CCC to suspend cocoa bean exports to enable local cocoa grinders to buy the necessary volumes for the factories.

"Today, middlemen buyers and scouts control 80% of purchases in the farms but with the new marketing system that is coming, the cooperatives will take power. We want to exclude the buyers," the source at the CCC said.

Source: Reuters

Reuters, the news and media division of Thomson Reuters, is the world's largest multimedia news provider, reaching billions of people worldwide every day.

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About Ange Aboa

Reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Susan Fenton.
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