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Cote d'Ivoire farmers battle low coffee prices.

Coffe producers in Divo are suffering from the effects of low world coffee prices. The situation is being further aggravated by buyers who are offering growers lower prices that the official Cote d'Ivoire producer prices.

Pascal Biego is a typical example of a producer who refused to sell his coffee buyers who offered him less than half the official producer price. Thus, he keeps his coffee on sacks on the concrete floor of his village home, hoping that it will not rot in the damp heat before he attempts to sell it again next year.

Biego, who farms in Bribari near the ramshackle town of Divo 105 miles (170 km) north-west of the capital, Abidjan, said that buyers state that they cannot check the quality on the spot, so they offer just 40CFA (Communaute financiers africaine) francs (13 US [cents]) per kg. The official farm gate price is 100 CFA francs (33 US [cents]) per kg for dried coffee berries which are then processed in factories to produce beans.

With world coffee prices at rock bottom levels, banking sources said that Cote d'Ivoire, Africa's biggest coffee producer, as well as being the world's largest cocoa producer, was having to subsidize production of the current 1990/91 crop to the tune of about US$75 million. However, small farmers are getting even less for their beans than the government is endeavoring to guarantee and at the same time the quality is falling.

Cote d'Ivoire introduced quality premiums and penalties earlier this year in order to discourage farmers from producing worthless black beans, which result from picking unripe berries or incorrectly drying them.

The system provides a bonus payment of 12 CFA francs (US [cents] 4) per kg for coffee free of black beans, withholding 0.12 CFA francs (0.04 US [cents]) for each 1% black beans in the consignment.

Growers report that they are routinely offered only 40 to 60 CFA francs (13 to 20 US [cents]) per kg and sometimes as little as 15 CFA francs (5 US [cents]) per kg. Farmers co-operatives are not much better, paying only 60 to 75 CFA francs (10 to 25 US [cents]) per kg.

Blego is fortunate that he is able to withhold his coffee in the hope of better prices next year. Most farmers are desperate for cash and thus, are forced to sell for whatever price they can obtain.

Diplomats report that the quality and quantity of ivorian coffee has dropped because the low returns from coffee production demoralizes farmers and pushes them into careless picking. They added that total production was expected to fall from 286,000 tons in 1989/90 to 240,000 tons this season. The quality was terrible because the growers were just picking anything.

A recent article in the official daily, Fraternite Matin, reported that a bag of processed Ivorian coffee often contained about 25% of black beans and sometimes as much as 37%. The country has at least 80,000 tons of black beans which cannot be sold and thus, have been stockpiled at huge expenses to the governments whose officials privately admit to a quality problem.

These officials say that farmers are hiring laborers at around 1,000 CFA francs (US$3.25) per day, insisting that they pick a certain quantity of berries to cover the cost of harvesting. Thus the laborers do not pick just the ripe berries, but strip all the berries from the tree in order to fill the allowed two bags by the end of the day.

Many coffee growers said that they want to return to the traditional system, where they hulled and sorted their own coffee, which was in operation until a few years ago when Cote d'Ivoire built hulling factories.
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Title Annotation:Ivory Coast, Africa
Author:Kille, Turville
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Previous Article:Cardenas aims heavy warnings at industry.
Next Article:Zimbabwe coffee growers association annual meeting.

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