Cocoa production in Ivory Coast is expected to decline this year as poor weather takes its toll on the crop.
Data from Ivory Coast’s Agriculture ministry shows a projected deficit of 200,000 tonnes in the current period. This represents a decrease of 12%.
Agricultural specialists have placed the blame in production on the persistence of the El Nino weather phenomenon that has brought in the most severe Harmattan winds in three decades.
The grinders who buy the bulk of the mid-crop’s smaller beans are also worried of the quality in production declining and which will make the cocoa that is harvested not even be suitable for processing.
Exporters said they were seeing a decrease in the size of beans and an increase in the levels of free fatty acids (FFA), which erode the quality of cocoa butter, the ingredient that gives chocolate its melt-in-the-mouth texture.
Cocoa is Ivory Coast’s biggest cash crop, accounting for 22% of gross domestic product, more than half its exports and two-thirds of people’s jobs and incomes, according to the World Bank.
Ivory Coast currently processes around a third of its cocoa production locally, most of it into semi-finished products such as cocoa butter and powder.
The west African nation’s 12 grinding facilities processed nearly 570,000 tonnes of beans in 2014, up more than 20% from the previous year.
Although it has been the mainstay of the economy since independence from France in 1960, the “brown gold” does not feature strongly in its French-influenced cuisine.