- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 9, 2004

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Deadly violence in Ivory Coast has shut down cocoa exports from the world’s largest producer, closing ports that ship more than 40 percent of the world’s raw material for chocolate.

Clashes that have pitted Ivory Coast’s government and supporters against French forces come at the peak of Ivory Coast’s main harvest, with overall production last year of 1.4 million tons.

Violence has closed the country’s two main ports, in Abidjan and San Pedro, since Saturday afternoon. Cocoa buyers are not venturing out into the bush to buy cocoa, traders and other officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“Not at all,” one trader in Abidjan said. “Even in the bush, you can’t get the cocoa from the farmers” because of the turmoil.

Cocoa workers in the cities, like most other residents of Ivory Coast’s southern population centers, are staying inside their homes for fear of violence.

The unrest caused cocoa futures to climb sharply Monday, rising more than 10 percent on the New York Board of Trade, but eased back yesterday. Cocoa for December was quoted at $1,805 per metric ton, up $14 yesterday.

Ivory Coast normally produces 80 percent of its cocoa between October and January. Cocoa production is centered in the southwest, the base of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo’s ethnic group and in recent years the scene of some of the worst political violence.

Ivory Coast is also a major coffee producer, and traders said the shutdown applies to coffee shipping as well. It is not a peak time for exports, however, from Africa’s third-biggest coffee exporter.

The latest turmoil began Saturday, when Ivory Coast warplanes killed nine French peacekeepers and an American aid worker in an air strike on the rebel-held north.

France, Ivory Coast’s former colonial ruler, wiped out the nation’s air force on the tarmac in retaliation, sparking massive anti-French rampages by mobs in the fiercely nationalist south.

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