African Ebola outbreak could help Ecuador and Colombia cocoa sales; prices have risen and production in both countries has increased

Nov 22, 2014

chl cocoa

Cocoa pods on a plantation in Esmeraldas

The risk that West Africa’s Ebola outbreak will spread and disrupt cocoa supplies may boost demand for beans from Ecuador and Colombia, according to industry groups in the Andean nations.

“There’ll be a chance to promote our cocoa in Europe and elsewhere amid this very unfortunate Ebola situation,” the head of Colombia’s National Cocoa Growers’ Federation Eduard Baquero said today in a telephone interview. “Some people may give preference to cocoa from the Americas as a preventative measure.”

In addition to labor disruptions that might be caused by Ebola, a general fear of the disease may reduce sales from infected countries. “There is no way that the Ebola virus can be spread through agricultural products, but fear is often irrational,” said a spokesman for the Ivory Coast exporters’ association last week.

Global cocoa prices have risen 7.9 percent this year, partly on speculation an outbreak of the deadly virus in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea could spread to nearby Ivory Coast and Ghana. Together the two countries account for roughly 60 percent of the world’s cocoa production.

Cocoa for December delivery fell for a third straight day in New York, to $2,923 per metric ton, as Ebola concerns ease. Colombia and Ecuador produce pricier grades of the chocolate-making ingredient, while most global output is of cheaper varieties. Ecuadorian cocoa is widely recognized as the best in the world.

“Speculators who took advantage of the rumor, the concern, are beginning to sell their positions,” Ivan Ontaneda, president of Ecuador’s National Cocoa Exporters Association said in a telephone interview today. “However it’s a situation that could reverse overnight if a case was discovered” in Ghana or Ivory Coast.

Ontaneda said that cocoa production increased 14.3% in the first nine months of 2014 and that, at the current pace, it could soon equal levels not seen since the early years of the 20th century. Until a blight devasted the industry in the 1920s, Ecuador was the world’s top cocoa producer.

 

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