General News of Tuesday, 18 July 2000
ABIDJAN, Cote d'Ivoire (PANA) - The four big cocoa producing countries in Africa have met in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, to map out strategies aimed at bringing back the price of the commodity which has plummeted on the world market.
Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Cote d'Ivoire met over the weekend and decided to reduce production for the 2000/2001 season by 250,000 tonnes by destroying the nuts.
They believe the strategy of reducing supply would strengthen the market and boost prices.
The producers issued a declaration setting up a technical committee in each of the countries to work out modalities and calendar for the application of the strategy.
In addition, a follow-up committee and a supervision council would also be established to monitor the application of the measures. The supervision council would consist of the various ministers or whosoever is in charge of cocoa production in the countries and it is supposed to meet at least two times in a year, the first of such fixed for 21-22 August in Accra, Ghana.
The Abidjan meeting decided to liase with other cocoa producing countries to bring them to adhere to the strategy for price stabilisation.
It said that even though the African countries produce about 60 percent of the world cocoa, they could not influence the price of the commodity alone.
The four countries agreed to seek ways of improving the marketing networks and increase the local processing capacity as well as examine possibilities of getting new, non-traditional markets and promoting alternative cocoa uses.
Speaking at the opening session of the two-day meeting, the Ivorian minister of trade, Lt. Cdr Saint-cyr Djikalou, told the participants that African producers must pull their acts together to reverse the sharp drop in the price of the commodity.
The world price of cocoa had been halved from 1,000 pound sterling to as low as 622 pounds per tonne in a couple of years.
The fall has brought untold hardship to the producing countries, especially Cote d'Ivoire, the world's net producer.
In the 1999/2000-agriculture season, the country produced 1.3 million tonnes. Ghana produced 435,000 tonnes, while the world production peaked at 3.03 million tonnes during the period.
"It is necessary for the countries to agree on a strategy because not doing so would be counter productive," a participant said.
"For example, Nigeria had announced some weeks ago that in the three years to come, it would strive to increase its production from the present 250,000 tonnes to 600,000 tonnes, so it will be important that the countries map out strategies, and if possible imitate the OPEC by allocating production quotas to the countries," he said.
Observers also agree that the meeting was very crucial in order to seek ways of solving the problem because of the fact that some countries like Cote d'Ivoire have liberalised the cocoa sector.
In Ghana, for example, cocoa farmers were able to stop the liberalisation programme which they think was too quick because of their situation, a move that gave the cocoa board the power to regulate the production and sale of the commodity.
A study carried out by the International Cocoa Organisation showed that to bring up the price of cocoa to about one million CFA francs per tonne in the next planting season, about 250,000 tonnes must be withdrawn from the world market.