Cote d’Ivoire cocoa industry fears Ebola could threaten booming market

Ebola Outbreak

Cocoa production in West Africa is booming, but some worry that the Ebola virus could harm growth. The world’s largest cocoa producer, Cote D’Ivoire, borders Guinea and Liberia which have seen a number of Ebola cases. While cocoa output hit a record high this year, the potential spread of the virus is worrying many. CCTV America’s Clementine Logan reported the story from San Pedro, Cote d’Ivoire.

Cocoa growers like Atsi LePierre have been eking a living from this land, in eastern Cote d’Ivoire, for decades. Finding workers and growing enough to get by are the usual concerns here.

But Ebola has given them something new to worry about. The virus has killed thousands over the border in Liberia and Guinea.

“Because we planters work in the bush and contamination comes from wild animals. We’re very worried and also because this could potentially prevent us from doing our work,” said Gognino Koneh, president of cocoa growers association.

Cote d’Ivoire produced 1.45 million tonnes of cocoa last season and supplies around 40 percent of the world’s beans.

Much of them go out through the port, San Pedro, in the southwest. Port authorities began monitoring incoming ships for Ebola last month. Nearly 3,000 crew members have been tested for symptoms and all were negative.

While local growers seem confident that government measures will keep Ebola at bay, exporters here are still concerned. They said even a few cases along the border with Liberia and Guinea would be enough to disrupt the flow of cocoa beans.

This has raised fears of potential supply shortages, driving prices up and prompting major exporters like Nestle South Africa to ship cocoa at a faster pace.

The government is convinced it can contain any outbreak. This would minimize the risk of quarantining entire regions, which exporters fear would prevent the movement of cocoa.

“The Coffee-Cocoa council has already contributed equipment and supplies to the Ministry of Health, to reinforce our capacity to protect cocoa producers and make sure that if a case does emerge it’s immediately contained and doesn’t spread,” said Minayaha Siaka Coulibaly, principal secretary from Ministry Agriculture.

David Streit of Commodity Weather Group discusses potential chocolate shortage

There is potential for a worldwide chocolate shortage. Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa supply comes from West Africa, mostly from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. Recent unusually dry weather in the region is affecting output. Crops are also doing battle with the fungal disease, frosty pod, that targets cocoa pods and is highly transmittable. What’s more, people’s tastes are also changing from milk chocolate to dark chocolate which requires a higher volume of cocoa.

CCTV America interviewed David Streit, co-founder and chief operating officer at Commodity Weather Group, about the potential chocolate shortage.