MEAGUI, Ivory Coast, July 27 (Reuters) - Local purchases of cocoa beans in Ivory Coast fell this month as their quality deteriorated, traders in the west and southwest of the world’s top grower said.
Ivory Coast’s Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) sets a maximum bean count of 120 for 100 grams of cocoa for the mid-crop in order to ensure a minimum size of beans. Lower bean counts denote larger bean size.
Local buyers in the western towns of Daloa, Sinfra, Vavoua and Issia told Reuters their purchases regularly exceed this limit. This means they receive smaller beans that contain less cocoa butter, the ingredient that gives chocolate its texture.
“We are increasingly receiving bean counts of 125, 130 and 135 beans. We cannot do anything with this because exporters at the ports refuse them,” said Alidou Konate, a cocoa trader in Daloa.
Some traders told Reuters they had reduced their cocoa purchases by a third, while others said they would stop buying until the start of the upcoming 2018/19 season.
The cutbacks have been reflected in cocoa arrival figures at the Abidjan and San Pedro ports, which slipped to 15,000 tonnes last week from 24,000 tonnes during the same week last year and are expected to fall by a similar amount this week.
When Reuters visited warehouses in the southwest last week, dozens of bags filled with small beans from the mid-crop harvest were waiting to be mixed with the main crop harvests. Many were laid out on tarpaulins to dry.
Hussein Rkein, a cocoa trader in Soubre, said he had reduced his purchases and planned to stop buying by mid-August. He blamed bean size and poor quality of the fermentation process.
“I am spending more money. I need to dry and lower humidity levels myself for every delivery, which is not cost-effective,” he said.
Traders in southwestern cities of Meagui and San Pedro also complained about the fermentation process, saying they would hold onto their beans until October.
Reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Aaron Ross and David Evans