The Ivorian economy is inseparable from the harvests of the cocoa and coffee crop. Cocoa, the bean that is used to make chocolate, of which Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s top producer, is the livelihood of two-thirds of Ivorian workers and accounts for 22% of GDP, World Bank data shows. This year, both these cash crops are facing climate-related challenges, but the Coffee-Cocoa Council, headed by Ms Massandjé Touré-Litsé, has established financial and value-adding strategies to buffer local cocoa and coffee industries against price volatility.
What are some facts that best define the cocoa and coffee industries’ importance?
Côte d’Ivoire has dominated the global cocoa bean market for years, having long been the lead producer and exporter in the world with around 1.8 million tonnes produced annually. Coffee has also been an important cash crop for many years. With coffee, we have recently undertaken wide-ranging reforms to boost quality and production to satisfy the growing global demand for luxury coffee products. Overall, market prices have risen at the beginning of this year, raising the earnings of cocoa and coffee to account for 40% of Côte d’Ivoire’s national export income. Truly, these crops are the backbone of our economy.
What’s being done to buffer these valuable cash crops against volatility?
We know that unforeseen events, such as this year’s El Nino, need to be mitigated against to maintain a strong agricultural sector. This is why a reserve fund to underpin the trade of cocoa and coffee has been established. But more significantly, we understand that our industries need to move up the value chain, which will help insulate these crops against price fluctuations. It is this value-adding process which represents a great opportunity for foreign investors.
How has Côte d’Ivoire reinforced its global cocoa status?
We’ve worked hard to ensure the relocation of the headquarters of the International Cocoa Organization from London to Abidjan by March 2017. This underscores our role as the cocoa capital of the world, a fact that will comfort and encourage international investors. It also creates jobs, attracts expertise, and builds a full organisational ecosystem to help the industry grow and become increasingly sophisticated.
What are some key investment opportunities?
There are opportunities from plantations to the distribution chain. We are working to improve product quality and productivity by updating agricultural techniques for sowing, fertilisation, phytosanitation and more. There is a massive replanting program with the latest high-quality seed varieties. But it must be said that mechanisation is central to the overall upgrade process, with new techniques being employed for harvesting and pod breaking, and new facilities installed to improve the fermentation and drying processes. This work is already having an effect: 91% of our cocoa bean output is of excellent quality; it is now graded 1 or 2, meaning only a very small percent of the crop is defective, which is up 10 percentage points from 2012.
What other opportunities are there in the agricultural sector?
Our agricultural sector is diversified into a range of other specialty crops, including cashew nuts, cotton, palm oil and exotic fruit. Our national strategy involves developing a broad-based agricultural sector, coupled with sophisticated value-adding processes. This enables the economy to ride-out fluctuations of individual commodities and product markets.
How does government policy reflect the importance of agricultural growth?
The Ivorian government has announced a reduced tax scheme on the exportation of cocoa, lowered to 9.6% from 14.6%, to further encourage local production. Currently, there are 12 grinding facilities, but with this policy we hope to increase this number and grind half of all our cocoa production domestically by 2020. Moreover, there are also additional efforts to support foreign private firms that produce semi-finished and finished agricultural products here with the intention of exporting them back to their home market. In short, substantial potential remains untapped, and we foresee that these policies will make the sector become more professional and entrepreneurial, while ensuring a bright future for producers and local farm communities.