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Ivory Coast 2015 cashew output hits record 702,000 T

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast’s 2015 cashew nut crop rose 24 percent to a record 702,000 tonnes and marketing of the crop will begin on Feb. 15, the West Africa nation’s government said on Wednesday.

The government has set a minimum farmgate price of 350 CFA francs ($0.5988) per kilogram, compared with 275 CFA francs the previous year, said government spokesman Bruno Kone. He said farmers have received a total 119 billion CFA francs in 2015.

In addition to being the world’s top cocoa producer, Ivory Coast is also Africa’s biggest cashew grower. The increase in cashew output has been boosted by government reform and investment, the statement said. A decade ago, Ivory Coast produced around 80,000 tonnes of raw nuts per year.

With output growing by over 10 percent annually amid strong demand from Asia, the cashew sector has attracted the attention of a government keen to kickstart the economy after a decade of war and political chaos that ended in a brief 2011 civil war.

($1 = 584.5300 CFA francs)


(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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Workers at Ivory Coast’s state oil company Petroci extend strike

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ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Workers at Ivory Coast’s state oil company Petroci have extended a strike for an additional 72 hours as they sought to bring in employees from other companies in the sector to join their protest against layoffs, union officials said on Friday.

Fifty of Petroci’s 600 employees were made redundant last month and another 150 are expected to be dismissed, union leaders have said, in the wake of an audit recommending that the company cut costs and staff amid falling oil prices.

Workers launched a 72-hour strike on Tuesday.

“Next week we will intensify the strike and see if other employees from other companies in the sector join the Petroci employees in this strike,” said Geremie N’Guessan Wondje, secretary general of the SYNTEPCI union.

Petroci offered to pay 10 dismissed managers six months salary while the 40 other laid-off employees were to receive eight months salary. However, a member of the company’s management said the union was demanding 20 months.

“That’s not possible. We don’t have all that money,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

Petroci is a small oil and natural gas producer but it is heavily involved in the downstream sector, controlling 36 percent of domestic gas distribution in French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy as well as about 30 filling stations.

It also partners with companies with production and exploration operations and manages a logistical base that services offshore blocks.

SYNTEPCI represents workers from 16 companies in addition to Petroci that could be called upon to strike out of solidarity.

Those companies include state-owned Societe Ivoirienne de Raffinage (SIR), which operates a refinery with a capacity of 65,000 barrels per day, as well as logistics firms and fuel retailers such as Total.



(Reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Joe Bavier, editing by David Evans)

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Ivory Coast rains don’t end cocoa farmers’ worries

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Rain that has fallen in many of Ivory Coast’s cocoa growing regions will aid the April-to-September mid-crop but damage caused by the Harmattan wind remained a concern for some, farmers said on Monday.

The Harmattan is a wind that usually blows from the Sahara during December to March. At its peak it can destroy cocoa pods and sap soil moisture, making beans smaller. Ivory Coast is also in its dry season from mid-November to March.

Farmers said their eyes were on the April-to-September mid-crop since most of the main cocoa crop was complete.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, an analyst reported 37 millimetres of rainfall in the spell, compared with none last week.

Salame Kone, who farms in the outskirts of Soubre, said farmers were pleased with the rainfall this week and hoped it would continue so the mid-crop would start well. But the main crop had ended poorly, he said, adding:

“There are few pods on the trees. The flowers of the main crop weakened a great deal.”

In the eastern region of Abengourou, known for the good quality of its beans, farmers reported one good downpour followed by the return of the Harmattan dry wind.

N’Dri Kouao, who farms near Niable, said little of the main cocoa crop remained and predicted that, if the weather persisted, the mid-crop would disappoint.

“The rain is good but the return of Harmattan worries us because it is drying up the leaves and the flowers,” said Kouao.

Similar growing conditions were reported in the western region of Duekoue.

In the centre-western region Daloa, which produces a quarter of Ivory Coast’s national output, farmers reported no rain, adding that persistent drought had weakened trees.

Farmer Albert N’Zue said the mid-crop may be small in the first three months because of the weather conditions.

“Many trees will not endure for a long time if it doesn’t rain soon,” said N’Zue.

Downpours were reported in southern regions of Divo and Aboisso.


(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Keith Weir)

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Ivory Coast set for GDP growth of 9.8% in 2016

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast’s economy will grow by 9.8 percent this year, up from 9.5 percent in 2015, Budget Minister Abdourahmane Cisse said during a news conference on Thursday.

The world’s top cocoa grower, and French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy, has averaged growth of around 9 percent over the past four years, according to the government, as its economy has rebounded from a decade of political turmoil and civil war. The International Monetary Fund last year predicted average growth of 8.4 percent in 2015 and 2016.


(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier)

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Ivory Coast’s Guillaume Soro: From rebel leader to high government post

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Guillaume Soro

A passion for freedom has led Guillaume Soro from command of rebel forces in Ivory Coast’s brutal civil wars to the highest echelons of government in the West African nation. But Soro also faces accusations of inhumane treatment during the country’s civil war in 2011.

Soro, now President of the National Assembly, was briefly subject to an arrest warrant in Paris in December. His accuser is Michel Gbagbo, the son of Soro’s archrival, the former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo.

Michel Gbagbo has filed claims in a Paris court accusing Soro and other senior leaders in the rebellion of “kidnapping, false imprisonment, and inhumane and degrading treatment” before he was released in 2013. Soro denies the charges, saying Michel Gbagbo was arrested legally along with his father in 2011.

Michel Gbagbo

Michel Gbagbo

Former president faces charges in international court

Gbagbo’s father, the former president, meanwhile, stands accused of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, charges Laurent Gbagbo has denied.

The younger Gbagbo sought to have Soro arrested and compelled to testify in December when Soro was in France attending the Paris Climate Conference. Gbagbo has dual French-Ivorian citizenship, which enabled him to bring the case to the French court in 2012. But a judge lifted the warrant after the government of Ivory Coast protested that Soro was in Paris on official business and thus had diplomatic immunity.

Soro, Gbagbo are key figures in civil war

The enmity between Soro and Laurent Gbagbo is woven into a tapestry of civil unrest in Ivory Coast that dates back nearly 15 years.

Soro, now 43, was a leader of student uprisings against Gbagbo’s predecessor from 1995 to 1998 and did six stints in prison. After studying law in France for a time, he lived in exile in neighboring Burkina Faso before civil war erupted at home in 2002.

Soro led the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast, an opposition group that rebelled against Gbagbo, who became president in 2000. The movement combined with two other rebel groups to form New Forces, which seized northern Ivory Coast and accused Gbagbo of discriminating against northerners and Muslims.

“I have taken up arms to (help) my country to find its true face: peace, freedom and prosperity,” Soro wrote of his decision in his 2005 book, “Why I Became a Rebel.” He said he feared the country was on the brink of genocide.

Peace agreement brings rebel leader to power

As part of a 2003 peace deal, Soro joined the Gbagbo government as Minister of Communications. But fighting continued until a 2007 power-sharing deal elevated Soro to the post of prime minister. Gbagbo and Soro participated in a disarmament ceremony, burning their weapons to symbolize the end of the conflict.

In a speech, Soro apologized “to everybody and on behalf of everybody” for the harm done by the war.

That didn’t end the violence. Rockets were fired at a plane carrying Soro in June 2007, just two months after he was named prime minister. Soro was not hurt but three other passengers were killed in the attack on the plane as it landed in Bouake. Several arrests were made and there was speculation at the time that the attackers might have been members of Soro’s own New Forces, unhappy that he had joined the government. Soro also survived five previous assassination attempts.

Dispute over 2010 election

Long-delayed elections in 2010 sparked further violence after Gbagbo refused to concede the election to Alassane Ouattara, who ultimately became president with the backing of the French and the United Nations. Soro resigned from the government and joined opposition forces in support of Ouattara, who won 54 percent of the vote.

The post-election conflict left about 3,000 people dead, displaced tens of thousands, and gave rise to accusations of war crimes on both sides.

Soro with President Alassane Ouattara

Soro with President Alassane Ouattara

Soro gains high post

Soro rejoined the Ouattara government as prime minister and then was elected in 2012 to his current post as President of the National Assembly, the second highest post in the government. Soro is also Ouattara’s designated successor.

While Soro had many supporters in Ivory Coast as well as in West Africa and Europe, some questioned how national reconciliation could go forward with a divisive figure in a top post.

“This cannot bring things forward because there are people who are still aggrieved. Moreover there are people who have complaints against him, they are talking about reconciliation. We end up having this reconciliation and they put someone at the head of state, the number two, whilst people are aggrieved by him,” says Omer Blet, a student.

Soro is one of only a few on the Ouattara side of the conflict who have been accused of crimes during the war while hundreds on the Gbagbo side have been investigated, prompting complaints of imbalance by human rights groups.

Meanwhile, Ouattara was re-elected by a landslide to a second five-year term as president in 2015, spurring hopes that the country has reached political stability. But echoes of the long conflict continue to reverberate in French and international courts.

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Ivory Coast produced 126,000 tonnes of robusta in 2014/15

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast produced 126,000 tonnes of robusta coffee during the recently ended 2014/15 season and is targeting output of 130,000 tonnes this season as it seeks to revive the sector after years of decline, a government spokesman said on Friday.

Under reforms introduced in 2012, the West African country abandoned more than a decade of liberalisation in its coffee industry, which proved bad for farmers and production.

Now the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) sells forward the bulk of the anticipated crop in order to fix a guaranteed price for farmers.

“Since the reform, coffee production hasn’t ceased to increase,” Bruno Kone said following a cabinet meeting in the commercial capital Abidjan.

Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa grower, set a government guaranteed farmer price of 670 CFA francs ($1.11) per kilogram on Friday’s opening day of the 2015/16 harvest, Bruno Kone said, up from 650 CFA francs/kg last season.

Ivorian green robusta coffee output peaked at 380,000 tonnes in 2000, statistics from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization show, before collapsing during a decade of political turmoil and a drop in world prices.

Before the reform programme was implemented, Kone said, annual output had fallen to around 90,000 tonnes. Ivory Coast is targeting production of around 400,000 tonnes by 2020.


(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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Early, intense Harmattan winds worry Ivory Coast’s cocoa exporters

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

SAN PEDRO, Ivory Coast (Reuters) – The early arrival of intense seasonal Harmattan winds in Ivory Coast’s cocoa growing regions have raised concerns among exporters, who were already harbouring doubts over the size and quality of this season’s main crop in the world’s top producer.

The Harmattan’s dry, dusty winds blow down from the Sahara each year and can, when strong, lead to reduced bean size. The prolonged overcast conditions they create also make it difficult for farmers to properly dry and ferment harvested cocoa, reducing quality.

Farmers reported the arrival of the seasonal phenomenon in Ivory Coast’s growing regions in early December, weeks earlier than expected.

“Output was already down. We already knew that. But the fact the Harmattan has arrived so early and is so strong is really going to complicate the overall picture for the harvest,” said the director of an Abidjan-based export company.

Following a strong start to the 2015/16 season, arrivals to ports in Abidjan and San Pedro have declined gradually in recent weeks and fell behind last year’s levels according to exporters’ most recent estimates.

In San Pedro, Ivory Coast’s main export hub for cocoa, exporter warehouses visited by Reuters were half-full.

“Arrivals will increase a bit but will remain below last year’s volumes. We’ll have 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes per week until January and around 30,000 tonnes in January,” said a San Pedro-based purchases manager.

Ivory Coast brought in a record harvest of around 1.8 million tonnes last season. However, the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) already predicted in October a global supply deficit of around 96,000 tonnes this season, partly on the back of a significant drop in Ivorian production.

Exporters said that if the currently harsh Harmattan conditions persist, or even worsen, that deficit could grow.

“If this carries on, we risk an even greater impact on the harvest, but on quality as well,” said a second exporter.

The bulk of Ivory Coast’s cocoa is produced during the October-to-March main crop, with the most intense harvesting typically taking place in November and December.

“The Harmattan’s effects will be harsh from December until the end of January and that will clearly have an impact on bean quality. We worry about high (free fatty acid) content and poor fermentation during that period,” a third exporter said.



(By Ange Aboa. Editing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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Ivory Coast Re-elects Alassane Ouattara in Landslide

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics

Alassane Ouattara

In a tightly monitored and relatively peaceful election, the people of the Ivory Coast have re-elected Alassane Ouattara, former Prime Minister and former deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, as President of their country in a landslide. Fifty-five percent of eligible voters participated in the election casting 84 percent of their votes for Ouattara, keeping him in power until 2020 in the cocoa-rich country.

Voter turnout was decidedly lower than the 80 percent rate for the hotly contested 2010 vote, but it was substantially above that of the previous presidential elections in 2000 and 1995.

Pascal Affi N’Guessan, his closest rival and also a former Prime Minister, won 9 percent of the vote. N’Guessan is the head of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party. N’Guessan’s presidential run attempted to bring FPI back into political relevance after sitting out the parliamentary and local elections after Gbagbo’s arrest during the 2010 post-election crisis.

Laurent Gbagbo and the 2010 Election

Ouattara finds himself in a very different position than he did after the disputed 2010 election which resulted in the ousting of two-term president Laurent Gbagbo. In 2010, Gbagbo received 38% of the vote in the initial election but faced a run-off with second-place Ouattara because of the country’s election rules requiring the winner to have 50% of the vote. In the run-off, Ouattara received 54% to Gbagbo’s 46%, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), but that vote was disputed by the Constitutional Council, which then determined that Gbagbo had won 51% of the vote after citing evidence of irregularities. Both candidates declared victory, and both took the presidential oath of office.

The United Nations, the ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union, the United States, and former colonial power France declared support for Ouattara. They determined that the election was not compromised with former Prime Minister Ouattara winning a fair and free election at the ballot box. Gbagbo was told to abdicate the presidency by most of the international community. The body charged by the Ivory Coast Constitution with determining electoral disputes, however, declared Gbagbo to be the winner.

An ugly, bloody post-election civil war ensued pitting Gbagbo’s military against rebel forces supporting Ouattara with help from French troupes and UN peace-keeping forces. Four months of fighting, causing over 3,000 deaths and a deeper divide within the country, ended with Ouattara’s soldiers capturing and arresting Laurent Gbagbo. Ouattara then took power and the International Criminal Court indicted and arrested Gbagbo for crimes against humanity during the post-election civil war. Gbagbo is imprisoned in The Hague, Netherlands and is facing trial two weeks after the 2015 elections. Hardline members of his party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), disavowed their latest candidate N’Guessan, however, and requested supporters to boycott the polls. Voter turnout was markedly lower in areas considered Gbagbo’s traditional strongholds.

Division in the Ivory Coast

The outcome of Laurent Gbagbo’s ICC trial will have a substantial impact on the course of the next five years in the political climate of the Ivory Coast. The verdict, resulting in either an acquittal or conviction, will affect the balance of power in the FPI and its political support in the opposition. Most are expecting that Gbagbo will be convicted, but an acquittal would be a game changer. It could unite the opposition to Ouatarra and have a substantial impact on current political sympathies and the election in 2020.

The opposition parties in the Ivory Coast are currently deeply divided and in a state of disarray. Despite a few claims of voter intimidation and unequal access to state media, this election is universally considered valid, and there will be no civil war to determine who will be President. Over 10,000 police officers and soldiers were deployed all over the country to keep the peace during this year’s election.

All is still not well in the country with a continuing north-south divide, but progress is apparent, and Ouattara cites a growing economy based on its cocoa exports. Investors are flooding into the world’s top cocoa grower and their fears of upheaval are, temporarily, alleviated. Official observers considered the election peaceful and transparent. The President congratulated all Ivorians for their maturity and exemplary behavior.

ouattara celebrationsEconomic Growth and Optimism for the Future

Ouattara has presided over an unprecedented economic turnaround during his time in office. He is a noted economist known for transforming his country into one of the largest economies among its peers in West Africa after being decimated by civil war. The Ivory Coast economy is expected to expand about 10% this year, after averaging close to 8% the previous three years. The gain is greater and more rapid than most of its West African peers. Critics of the President believe he needs to do a better job of alleviating overall poverty and encourage further reconciliation after decades of violence and division within the country.

President Ouattara is optimistic about the future of his country. He believes that the people of the Ivory Coast are committed to a path of stability and reinforcement of democracy that his government is trying to foster. Hope is that the country continues its development and that peace will accompany it. Citizens must engage with their government and with their fellow citizens in peaceful political discussion and debate for progress to continue.

Mr. Ouattara believes that continued healthy growth in the economy will ease tensions that have divided the country in the past. An important element of reconciliation is improving living conditions, and this is already happening with investment in power infrastructure and the increasing availability of potable water. There is new hope in the country, and President Ouattara believes it will continue during his time as its leader.

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Ivory Coast begins construction of Abidjan port upgrades

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast began construction on Tuesday of a four-year, 560 billion CFA franc ($962 million) project to build a second container terminal and widen the canal leading to its main port in the commercial capital Abidjan.

Among the busiest in sub-Saharan Africa, the port serves Ivory Coast, French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy and the world’s top cocoa producer, and is also a gateway for landlocked nations to the north.

China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd was awarded the construction contracts for both projects with the bulk of the cost covered by a loan from China’s Eximbank.

Construction of the new container terminal, which will be managed by consortium led by France’s Bollore, will last 48 months and cost 409 billion euros ($461 billion).

It is expected to allow Abidjan to increase container traffic from 1.2 million TEU to 3 million TEU by 2020.

The upgrades to the canal linking the port to the Atlantic Ocean will be completed in 36 months at a cost of 151 billion CFA francs.

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ICCO to move to Abidjan, seeks new Executive Director

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters, UK

LONDON (Reuters) – The International Cocoa Organization said it will begin moving its headquarters from London to Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, later this week following an improvement in the security situation in the world’s top producer.

The ICCO originally agreed to relocate from London in 2002 but civil unrest disrupted the process which was subsequently suspended. The relocation will begin on Oct. 1 and should be completed at the latest by March 31, 2017.

The inter-governmental body, which has been based in London since its founding in 1973, originally sought to stabilise global prices through operating buffer stocks but has more recently provided statistical data and supported projects to develop cocoa production and trade.

The ICCO also said Executive Director Jean-Marc Anga had launched the process of recruiting his successor. He has been in the role since 2010.

The organisation aims to elect a new Executive Director at a council meeting in September 2016, a spokesman said.

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