Cocoa woes ahead as trees in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire tire

By Ange Aboa and Matthew Mpoke Bigg in Abidjan and Accra
Posted on Friday, 5 December 2014 12:42

Leading cocoa grower Ivory Coast harvested a record crop of over 1.74 tonnes last season, topping a previous record set two years earlier.

if you don’t rest, you’ll struggle to do half what you were able to do before

Ghana has roughly tripled its cocoa output over the past decade.

The Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC), Ivory Coast’s marketing board, has already lowered its production target to around 1.6 million tonnes. “It’s like with a man.

“You can work hard for a long period, but if you don’t rest, you’ll struggle to do half what you were able to do before,” said Dominique Kouadio, explaining the drop in output from his plantation in Ivory Coast’s Soubre region.

Cocoa arrivals at Ivorian ports in the first two months of the 2014/15 season were down around 10 percent from the previous season, according to exporters estimates.

Ghana, meanwhile, saw a drop in cocoa purchases of nearly 62 percent through the first three weeks of the season.

Ghana’s slow start may be related in part to delays in financing certified buyers but farmers blamed outbreaks of fungal black pod disease and a high mortality rate for flowers.

While the lower arrivals and purchases figures were largely anticipated by most traders, there remains disagreement over what will happen next.

Optimists predict that arrivals between January and March, which saw an uncharacteristically deep dip last season, will largely offset the early slump.

“The harvest this year is delayed. We’ll have bigger volumes from January to March than in other years,” one fund manager told Reuters.

Jonathan Parkman, joint head of agriculture at commodities brokers Marex Spectron, took a more conservative view.

“There are those saying arrivals are going to massively exceed last year and even exceed 2012/13,” he said.

“The argument against that is we don’t think the survival will be good enough for that, given normal weather.”

The first three months of the year coincide with the height of the dry season and the arrival of the dusty, desert Harmattan winds.

This season’s fatigued trees will struggle to resist harsh conditions particularly if they are amplified by El Nino weather patterns, said Edward George, Head of Group Research at Ecobank.

“I think, if anything, that’s where there’s the risk that that weakness will persist,” he said. “Inevitably it’s going to be a smaller crop this year.”

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options