Ivory Coast to boost local firms' share in cocoa exports, say sources

ABDIJAN, April 27 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast will soon require 20% of cocoa purchases by multinational companies to be fulfilled by local firms in order to reduce foreign influence on the world’s largest cocoa-exporting economy, four sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

President Alassane Ouattara is expected to sign on Wednesday an order to enforce a 2012 law under which Ivorian cocoa exporters are meant to handle at least 20% of national cocoa output.

The policy has gone largely unenforced until now. Every year the six major international players have used their greater financial muscle to buy and export all of the cocoa available, while local firms lacked access to financing and to European and U.S. chocolate makers to compete on an even playing field.

Once the new order is in force, it will be compulsory for one fifth of all export deals contracted by multinationals to be carried out by local exporters designated by the country’s Cocoa and Coffee Council (CCC), according to two CCC sources and two agriculture ministry sources.

The international cocoa companies that currently hold Ivorian export contracts are Cargill, SucDen, Oam , Barry Callebaut, Touton, and Ecom.

“The cartel of these six multinationals is a danger for our cocoa sector,” one of the cocoa council sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “We must reduce their influence and ensure that all actors have a place to work.”

The multinationals say they act in compliance with all CCC regulations.

Some Ivorian firms have said that by not enforcing the existing policy, the government had failed to provide local companies fair access to the international market.

“For us this is not a victory but the redress of an injustice, because for almost 10 years these multinationals have taken advantage of this situation to consolidate their monopoly,” a director of one Ivorian export company told Reuters on condition of anonymity. (Reporting by Ange Aboa Editing by Cooper Inveen and Peter Graff)