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Wet weather and disease hit African cocoa farmers, push up prices

Cocoa farmers across West Africa are battling several plant diseases that are ruining the crop and pushing up the global price of cocoa   -  
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Cocoa farmers across West Africa are monitoring the progress of several plant diseases that are ruining crops on a vast scale and pushing up the global price of cacao, the raw material for making chocolate, to record levels.

Ivory Coast and its neighbour Ghana, together supply more than half of the world’s demand for cocoa.

On his farm, 250 km northwest of Ivory Coast's commercial capital Abidjan, Olivier Gnakomene realised too late that his cacao crop was infected with a fungal black pod disease, and despite efforts to counter its spread with fungicide, this year's harvest looks likely to be pitiful.

As the major cacao season, which began in October 2023, draws to a close at the end of March, cocoa farmers in the village of Dodjagnoa say they are devastated.

Fungal black pod disease is just one of many affecting farmers.

Its spread is aided by months of soggy weather.

Another major problem in Ghana and Ivory Coast is cocoa swollen shoot virus, spread by insects.

It is usually dealt with by cutting down infected trees entirely.

The wet conditions in West Africa are being blamed for damaging crop yields, which is pushing cacao prices higher.

The world can't get enough chocolate at present.

The global cocoa and chocolate market is expected to grow from a value of $48 billion in 2022 to nearly $68 billion by 2029, according to analysts at Fortune Business Insights.

The farm gate price is up, but with harvests so small, farmers say they are struggling.

Farmers and representatives from farming collectives are gathering in Abidjan to talk with trade union leaders about what can be done to help them.

Industrial action may follow, they say, but all are hoping that it doesn't come to that.

The drop in production will have long-term repercussions on the international chocolate market, according to industry experts.

With demand for chocolate growing, especially in Asia, and global supply dropping, prices are expected to remain high.