Cocoa exports ground to a halt in Côte d’Ivoire, where approximately 50% of the world’s cocoa is produced. Since last Friday, Abidjan and San Pedro, the country’s two main ports, have been blocked by a dockers strike, which is expected to last until December 24th, although it threatens to continue indefinitely if a satisfactory solution is not found.
The dispute stems from demands to fulfil a 2019 government agreement that would raise the worker’s wage to three euros per hour, in line with international standards. The dockers currently only receive an hourly wage of around one euro.
The strike came after the Ivorian dockers’ union, FNADCI, called on its members to cease activities in the ports, in a push to demand better working conditions and higher remuneration.
Reuters spoke with Pierre Guigrehi, spokesperson for the FNADCI, who explained “both ports are blocked and there is currently no activity. The cocoa is blocked along with all the ships.”
If a resolution is not reached soon, this could turn out to be a very costly delay for exporters and their customers alike. Around 500,000 tonnes of cocoa beans are due to be exported by mid-January. The strike, therefore, has come at the worst possible time for exporters, and this was likely intentional.
With ships already docked and waiting to load cocoa, the pressure to get operations moving again is undoubtedly high. The director of one international cocoa export company told Reuters anonymously: “If it is not resolved quickly, there is a risk of big financial losses… the ships will not wait long here without doing anything.”
This recent development echoes the ongoing tensions between growers, processors, and exporters, and serves as a reminder, if we need one, of the dependency of dozens of moving parts in the value chain.