Arrivals at ports in the first quarter of 2018 in Côte d’Ivoire could turn out to be half as large as in the same period last year, according to exporters.
Commerzbank Research reported that six exporters surveyed by Reuters envisage cocoa arrivals of 300,000-350,000 tons at the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro in the first quarter of 2018. This year, the equivalent shipments was 570,000 tons.
The reason for the reduction is an outbreak of brown rot and black pot disease that followed excessive rainfall in October and wiped out a significant portion of cocoa pods.
“For the current quarter exporters are still reporting normal crop volumes that are slightly down year-on-year but tally with expectations,” said Commerzbank. “The next quarter also counts as the main crop, which runs from October to March. The two following quarters, both of which count towards the lower mid-crop, would therefore be unlikely to offset a significantly lower crop volume.”
A failure to properly care for and maintain the plantations is one important reason for the outbreak of brown rot and black pot disease. Because of the very low price level that has been seen for months now, cocoa farmers have lacked the financial means to purchase fertilisers and pesticides.
According to the International Cocoa Organization, cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire grew to a record level of more than 2 million tons in the 2016/17 crop year. As such, it played a major part in the record-high supply surplus of 371,000 tons and in the slump in prices to multi-year lows.